Press Release – The EU should ensure and sustain access to support for migrant women facing GBV

Marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, ACCESS project partners GAMS Belgium, FORWARD UK and Médicos del Mundo call on the European Union (EU) and its Member States to ensure and sustain access to prevention, protection and support of migrant women facing gender-based violence (GBV).

On 2 December 2020, ACCESS project partners hosted an online conference for professionals and institutions active in the fight against GBV and migrant women in Europe. The aim was to disseminate learning and results from the ACCESS project;  improve knowledge of issues faced by migrant women, promote change and harmonisation in attitudes, approaches and tools as well as the reinforcement of European policies to ensure access to support for migrant women in Europe who have been confronted with GBV, and their implementation.

The ACCESS project aims to improve prevention, protection and support for migrant women in Europe who are confronted with different types of GBV. In this framework, professionals were trained to apprehend GBV in the specific case of migrant women, and peer educators to build bridges between migrant communities and support services: “In the UK, we call them Community Champions. That is what they are, champions for change. They are a really good link for women in the community itself”, explains Kabung Lomodong, Community Programme Lead at FORWARD UK. Three peer educators Shukri Mohamed (Belgium), Mayamiko Esnart (Spain) and Eshraga El-Shaikh (UK) shared challenges and learning from the project and outlined key recommendations to European policy makers.

Regarding key challenges and rights violations that migrant women face in EU, Chiara Cosentino (End FGM European Network)  shed light on this lottery in access to rights: “If we truly want there to be a Union of rights, values, equality and support for the ones who are most in need, we must ensure implementation of equal standards at the level of Member States. Governments must practice what they preach, and we as civil society will hold them accountable.” Johanna Nelles, Executive Secretary of the Istanbul Convention monitoring mechanism, Council of Europe pointed out that “GREVIO keeps asking governments to ensure that the ratification of the Istanbul Convention really benefits all women, including migrant women. In that sense, migration laws need to be adapted to help women obtain independent residence permits.

The project has been supported by the REC Programme of the European Union between September 2018 and December 2020, which now raises the issue of sustainability. Fabienne Richard, GAMS Belgium’s Director: “When the funding ends, we find ourselves lacking the resources to sustain impact. We need a more structural approach to funding for violence against women.

Acknowledging that GBV needs to be prioritized at EU policy-making level, MEP Saskia Bricmont reiterates that: “The EU focus should shift to the need to adapt and harmonise migration laws. We know what needs to be done thanks to relevant recommendations from civil society organisations. The European Parliament has limited leeway when it comes to implementation at the level of Member States, but we encourage NGOs to keep up the advocacy work.

Some recommendations from the ACCESS Project:

  • The gender dimension should be taken into account in migration policies. We call upon the European Commission and all EU countries to ensure sharing of good practices among Member States.
  • We call upon the European Commission to ensure that Member States address the specific needs of specific migrant groups such as survivors of GBV, and promote exchanges among them on how to achieve this, including by involving migrant women organisations into the designing, implementation and evaluation of interventions in this sense.
  • The European Commission, specifically with the new Coordinator on Victims’ Rights, must ensure that concrete guidance is provided to Member States on how to put EU legislation in practice, including through sharing good practices among countries on what works in practice and ensure homogenization of protection standards for migrant women survivors of GBV.
  • We call upon the European Commission to ensure that undocumented migrants are not discriminated on the basis of their residence status when accessing to health care and GBV services. Protection and support for migrant women affected by any type of GBV should not be subject to the obligation of report.

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About ACCESS partners

The non-profit organisation GAMS Belgium has been fighting since 1996 for the abandonment of female genital mutilation in Belgium and abroad. Its team collaborates with affected communities and carries out prevention, support, professional training, and advocacy work.

FORWARD UK (Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development) is the leading African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls in the United Kingdom.

Médicos del Mundo is an independent NGO working to realise the right to health for all people, especially for vulnerable, excluded populations or victims of natural disasters, famine, disease, armed conflict or political violence.

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