Nina Murray: Westminster must follow Scotland’s lead

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WOMEN are disadvantaged in our asylum process. Fact.

We know that women who seek asylum wait longer than men to hear if they can live in safety here. We also know that decisions the Home Office makes on women’s asylum claims are more likely to be flawed. Add that to the fact that 70 per cent of asylum-seeking women we surveyed have suffered physical or sexual violence, and it’s easy to see why we must work harder as a nation to ensure women have the protection they need.

The Scottish Refugee Council’s campaign, Raising Refugee Women’s Voices, brings together women who have sought safety here in Scotland. Their views are crucial for both the UK and Scottish governments to create a system of protection that works for every gender.

At present, vulnerable women are forced to travel 400 miles to Croydon to place their asylum claim. There, they must relay their trauma to glass-screened UK Border Agency workers in front of a room packed with strangers.

The UK Border Agency has admitted the need for change in this area, and we welcome this. In Scotland, good steps have been taken where Holyrood has powers, such as free healthcare for all asylum seekers, whether their case is pending or has been unsuccessful. Successive Scottish governments have also committed to help refugees integrate into society from the day they arrive – helping avoid the isolation and desperation many feel as they enter the complex and stressful asylum process.

We call on Westminster to adopt a similar approach to Scotland on integration.

And we want the UK government to pledge, publicly, to improve its treatment of refugee women. When nations meet in Geneva next month to mark 60 years of the UN Refugee Convention, we urge the UK government to pledge its commitment to women refugees. It is only by creating a process that works for the most vulnerable that we can truly have an asylum system we can be proud of.

• Nina Murray is women’s policy development officer for the Scottish Refugee Council