Many women do not seek asylum


A set of guidelines for agencies and community groups dealing with women asylum-seekers and refugees will be published today.

Its authors say they hope the Department of Justice will take on board the publication's findings in drawing up its own guidelines for women, who account for a third of all asylum applicants in the State.

Women And The Refugee Experience: Towards A Statement Of Best Practice was written by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties' Women's Committee and will be launched today at the Equality Authority's offices in Dublin. The committee convenor, Ms Catherine Kenny, said the aim of the publication was to provide "a better understanding among service providers and the general public of the problems facing women asylum-seekers and refugees".

The 47-page booklet outlines the difficulties encountered by women asylum-seekers, many of whom it says are simply considered dependants of their male relatives and do not seek asylum in their own right.

"Women from strict patriarchal societies often do not have any input into the filing of [asylum] claims. Some women are often too traumatised and embarrassed to file a claim independently and may prefer a male relative or associate to attend to administrative matters," it says.

The publication's recommendations include advising women in private that they can seek asylum in their own right and training immigration officials in gender issues and cultural sensitivity.

It also highlights the language and cultural problems women asylum-seekers and refugees have when they go for medical treatment. "A woman's ability to engage confidently with doctors, nurses and health workers may be further inhibited by the trauma of abuse, dislocation and adjusting to a new environment. It is essential, therefore, that culturally sensitive interpretation and translation facilities are in place," it says.

Ms Kenny said State guidelines on how to meet the particular needs of women asylum-seekers and refugees were in place in countries including the United States, Canada and Australia.

"We hope the Department of Justice will take on board the example of these countries as well as our suggestions and draw up guidelines of its own," she added.