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06 October 2016

Causes of flight: Sexualised wartime violence

Press Release: Cologne, September 29, 2016. Millions of women and girls experience sexualised violence every day in the war and crisis regions which are the origin of the refugees who come to Germany. On Germany’s National Day of Refugees on September 30, the women’s rights organisation medica mondiale is appealing to the German government to recognise the situations which women and girls encounter in their home countries, during their flight and in the refugee accommodation when they arrive at their destination. It is time the government takes this reality seriously and acts accordingly.

“Until now, the concepts of the German government have been limited to sealing off the EU along its external borders, assisted by its so-called ‘migration partnerships’,” says Monika Hauser, founder of medica mondiale. Her criticism continues: “Germany and the European Union’s partners in this regard include countries such as Sudan, South Sudan and Mali – all countries where violence against women and girls is deliberately used as a weapon of war and a measure to force displacement. It has to be clear to everyone that it is both cynical and naive to claim that migration and asylum policies can combat the reasons why people seek refuge by hindering people in their attempts to seek refuge from war and violence. In the long term this cannot solve any problems.”

medica mondiale is demanding the following from the German government:

Sexualised violence has to be recognised as one of the causes of refugee flight.

Long-term efforts need to be enacted to combat it. Government soldiers and opposition fighters alike deliberately use the rape of women and girls to terrorise their opponents and force them (or whole groups) to leave their home areas. The latter makes it especially clear: Sexualised wartime violence is one reason why refugees flee their homes.

Women refugees need better protection, both before and after reaching their destination.

The very real threat of being exposed to sexualised violence is especially high for women travelling alone or with their children. Very often they have to pay for the journey with their body. Or they are forced into marriage or prostitution. The perpetrators are not only the traffickers or other refugees, but also police officers, border soldiers or officials, and even UN soldiers or civilian aid workers. Germany has to recognise that women and girls are generally exposed to the risk of gender-based violence, and this risk continues in refugee accommodation.

The assistance necessary to combat this risk can only be provided if the accommodation is adequately financed at all levels, whether Bundesland or locally, and with national funding if necessary.

Women and girl refugees also need to be informed of their rights in Germany and of the appropriate help on offer in cases of violence. This need cannot be met sufficiently merely by distributing multilingual flyers – as is the case in much refugee accommodation in Germany. Instead, women and girls need to be spoken to directly and provided with appropriate advice. So the Federal Government needs to provide funding for targeted offers of group support for refugee women and girls – but also for men and boys – in refugee accommodation.