University of Birmingham: Wales’ unique position to protect forced migrant sexual and gender-based violence survivors – report

Wales is in a unique position to provide additional support for forced migrant sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors, a new report has found. This timely report recommends steps Wales can take toward fulfilling its ambition to become a Nation of Sanctuary.

The report, ‘Forced migration and sexual and gender-based violence: findings from the SEREDA project in Wales’ published by the University of Birmingham, with funding from the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Hub Wales, seeks to understand the nature and scale of SGBV experienced by refugees who have fled conflict and are residing in Wales.

Through interviews with survivors and service providers in Wales, the report found that experiences of SGBV were varied, and that victims often remained at risk of exploitation or abuse once they had arrived in Wales. The report identifies that difficult and lengthy asylum processes and unsafe housing may increase the risk of SGBV, which is further impacted by survivors having negative experiences with authorities, resulting in a lack of trust, and a lack of support for survivors to help them understand their rights and the law.

While forced migrants’ experiences of SGBV are complex and the current asylum system exacerbates trauma, Wales, with its joined-up approach to working is in a good position to support survivors. Additional funding is needed to support service provision alongside training to raise awareness of the special needs of forced migrant survivors
Professor Jenny Phillimore, Project Lead SEREDA project.
Survivors and service providers referenced only one organisation in Wales as having the expertise to work with forced migrant survivors. However, the report highlights that whilst immigration policy is reserved to the UK Government, the devolved nature of health, social care, education and housing policy in Wales lends itself to the development of collaborative initiatives to protect and support survivors.

The report concludes that Wales has a unique opportunity to build on the existing work of public services within its devolved powers to ensure all services can sufficiently support victims and survivors regardless of their immigration status.

Lead author Jenny Phillimore said: “While forced migrants’ experiences of SGBV are complex and the current asylum system exacerbates trauma, Wales, with its joined-up approach to working is in a good position to support survivors. Additional funding is needed to support service provision alongside training to raise awareness of the special needs of forced migrant survivors.”

Director of the ACE Hub Wales, Jo Hopkins, said: “Listening to survivors and exploring opportunities to address concerns is a key focus for ACE Hub Wales, as this will support a community-led approach to tackling ACEs and trauma which is sustainable and works for the people who need to access services.

“People who are forced to migrate have a right to safety, protection and support. Findings from this report will help us to understand the experience of migrant individuals and families who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and ensure Wales works together to improve the support available to them.”

Over 82 million people were forcibly displaced in 2020, around half being female. The recent conflict in Ukraine has led to around 10 million more people being forced to seek refuge, most of whom are women and children.* Women and girls face specific vulnerabilities in forced migration including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The exact proportion of forced migrants experiencing SGBV is unknown but thought to exceed 50%. Men, boys and LGBTQIA+ people can also be victims.

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