Migration is also a journey for safety

Photo: “Migration is a right”. Collage by Denise P. from the LAWRS’ Sin Fronteras project.

On International Migrant’s Day, we are launching #StepUpMigrantWomen‘s website to highlight that migrant and refugee women facing abuse have rights.

According to UN women, there are 244 million migrants in the world. Half of them are women. There is still much to learn and do about the primary and complex factors of forced migration for women. Many have started their journeys in search of safety and continue to face abuse while on the move. The SUMW UK campaign highlights that migrant and refugee women are vulnerable to gender-based abuse not only in their journey to destination, but also in their destination country due to lack of recognition of their rights. It is crucial that all victims receive an appropriate response.

On 18th of December, the SUMW campaign recognises migrant and refugee women’s fundamental right to access justice and safety. Women with insecure immigration status are generally excluded from systems of support and denied basic welfare rights: access to health, shelter and economic support. In line with the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)the UK must adopt measures to protect, respect and fulfil migrant women’s human right to access justice. The CEDAW committee noted that women “do not report violations of their rights to the authorities for fear that they [will be] humiliated, stigmatised, arrested, deported, tortured or have other forms of violence inflicted upon them, including by law enforcement officials.”

On this day, migrant women survivors of violence take agency to say “Step up” in order to demand safe-reporting mechanisms, where safety is prioritised over immigration status.

We echo a survivor’s words: “Do not be ashamed, have the confidence to open your mouth, blow the whistle. If I just sat quietly, men would still be using me” (Women 4 Refugee Women).

On International Migrant Day, more than ever: we need safe reporting mechanisms for all women facing violence. Immigration control cannot override the right to safety. It is the call of our times, we must stand together and recognise: migrant women’s rights are human rights.

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