This book is about the lives of refugee women in Britain and France. Who are they? Where do they come from? What happens to them when they arrive, while they wait for a decision on their claim for asylum, and after the decision, whether positive or negative? The book shows how laws and processes designed to meet the needs of men fleeing political persecution often fail to protect women from persecution in their home countries and fail to meet their needs during and after the decision-making process. It portrays refugee women as resilient, resourceful and potentially active participants in British and French social, political and cultural life. The book exposes the obstacles that make active participation difficult.
Many women come to Britain and France because they risk gender-related persecution such as forced marriage, ‘honour’ crimes or female genital mutilation. However, for most of these women, arrival in Britain or France marks the start of a new phase of problems and troubled circumstances, including public hostility and xenophobic attitudes towards asylum seekers and refugees. This book represents the first full-length study to focus not only on refugee migrant women as users of state and voluntary sector services in France and Britain, but also on their involvement in politics, civic action, and political activism and as agents of change. First, it contributes to the literature on the reception and settlement of refugee women in destination societies in the West. It examines asylum-seeking and refugee women's interactions within and with processes and structures related to asylum and immigration (including detention) and those to do with housing, health, education and training and employment. The book also extends the traditionally accepted boundaries of what constitutes citizenship and political participation through gendered analyses of refugees' experiences and lives.
International, European, and national policies and practices on refugee status determination and settlement/integration have changed over time in response to broader economic, political and social stimuli. Refugee and asylum policy is not simply a response to a recognised need on the part of those fleeing persecution; it is intricately connected to broader international politics, to domestic concerns with migration control, to local racism and xenophobia. The policy on asylums and refugees is currently high on the political agenda in France and Britain, as it is at the European Union level. This chapter sets out the international, European, and national framework for refugee status determination, reception, and settlement. It establishes one of the contexts in which the study of refugee women in Britain and France is situated. The chapter also discusses international law on refugees, gender and the international legal framework, the Hague Programme adopted by the European Council in November 2004, welfare and support for asylum seekers and refugees, detention of asylum seekers and migrants, and integration policy and practice in France and Britain.
This chapter examines the landscape of international migration within which female refugee migrants are positioned. It first gives an overview of inward migration flows into Britain and France while bearing in mind both the general European context and processes of feminisation which have occurred over the last fifty years. It then presents the demographic and sociological characteristics of female refugee migration to the two countries concerned. Information about these characteristics is important in that it provides statutory and voluntary agencies dealing with refugee women with the knowledge and understanding required to assess the latter's specific problems, needs, and aspirations and therefore to offer them adequate protection and resources for their social, political, and economic engagement in the destination country. It also helps such agencies in the effective lobbying of national legislators over the making of laws which respect international human rights principles and rules. Any discussion of third-wave migrants would be incomplete without mention of the category sans papiers, which covers individuals with diverse origins, migration experiences, and trajectories.
Refugee women's experience in Britain is affected by a range of factors, including their experiences prior to arrival, their attitudes towards their migration, access to social and economic institutions, the presence of community associations and social networks, and the impact of refugee policies. Refugee women's language skills, childcare responsibilities, education, employment, and immigration status will all have an important impact on their integration. The fact that UK asylum policy refuses to recognise the integration needs of asylum seekers in terms of language learning and access to employment, for example, has an impact on the experiences of refugee women both before and after their asylum decision. This chapter takes a roughly chronological approach to refugee women's experiences of life in Britain, beginning with their arrival in the country and ending with their integration or removal. It looks at housing for asylum seekers, along with racism, hostility, and domestic violence encountered by refugee women, poverty and destitution, detention, the use of immigration detention for pregnant women and babies, access to health services, maternity care, deportation, and family and community relations.
Pockets of interest in the situation of asylum seekers and refugee women in France emerged in the early 2000s. This chapter presents as full a picture as possible of asylum seeking and refugee women's experiences of and interactions within reception and integration structures and processes in France. As far as asylum procedures are concerned, asylum seekers either lodge an intention to claim refugee status on arrival at a French port or make an in-country application to Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides (OFPRA). This chapter also discusses French policy on detention, accommodation, access to healthcare, women refugee migrants and mental health, maternity services, education, training and employment, and family and community relations. It also compares asylum seeking and refugee women in Britain and France.
This chapter explores the question of citizenship-building processes in relation to women asylum seekers and refugees and their civic participation not only in discrete refugee women's community associations or organisations but also in (longer established) migrant women's community associations. It first discusses the relationship between the question of citizenship, refugee women, and their associations. It then presents an overview of the establishment and development of refugee women's associations in Britain and France. It also examines the forms of activities and activism in which refugee women engage. Finally, it asks what conclusions can be drawn about these forms of activities/activism in terms of drawing this section of the population into a more inclusive model of citizenship.
Some studies have focused on refugee women's activism in refugee community associations. There has been less interest in refugee women's participation in other political or civil society organisations. This chapter highlights refugee women's agency, countering the perception that they are passive victims, and describes their individual motivation and resources, and their experiences of participation in non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It suggests that refugee women may find the route into mainstream politics barred to them, either as a result of citizenship and nationality laws or as a result of less explicit but equally obstructive barriers such as exclusion from the types of profession which constitute the pool of political office holders, or discrimination on the part of party selectors. This chapter discusses individual, organisational, and environmental (for example, racism, poverty, exclusion) opportunities for and obstacles to NGO participation. It focuses on NGOs which have been particularly active in the triple role of providing material support and advice to refugee and asylum seeking women; campaigning for their rights; and fostering empowerment, political participation, and capacity building.
One of the main aims of this book has been to place the story of refugee women and asylum seekers at the centre of accounts of refugee migration and migrants in Britain and France in order to increase our knowledge and understanding of their place and role in these two countries and to highlight their agency rather than present them as passive victims or accompanying dependants. First, it has set out the legal/institutional framework within which women asylum seekers have their status determined. It has shown how this decision is made in Britain and France and the extent to which gender is recognised as a factor influencing the kind of persecution experienced and the reasons for it. Second, it has given a detailed view of refugee women's lives and experiences in Britain and France, from their arrival to their asylum decision and integration or removal. Finally, it has analysed refugee women's participation in refugee community associations and non-governmental organisations in order to draw some broader conclusions about participation and citizenship.