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Europe: Female migrants, refugees 'face violence and sexual harassment'

Female migrants have to cope with arduous journeys, threats to life, violence and...harassment [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 January, 2016

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Women and girl refugees and migrants coming into Europe from places like Iraq and Syria face sexual violence on their journey, including from police officers, said Amnesty on Monday.

Female asylum seekers face physical assault and sexual harassment on their journeys through Europe, Amnesty International warned in a report on Monday, calling on governments to offer more protection.

The London-based human rights group interviewed 40 migrant women and girls in Germany and Norway who had travelled to Greece and then across the Balkans.

All those interviewed were from Iraq and Syria.

"Many reported that in almost all of the countries they passed through, they experienced physical abuse and financial exploitation, being groped or pressured to have sex by smugglers, security staff or other refugees," the report said.

It said women and girls travelling alone or accompanied only by their children felt particularly under threat in camps in Hungary, Croatia and Greece where they had to sleep alongside men and sometimes had to share bathroom and shower facilities with them.

"If this humanitarian crisis was unfolding anywhere else in the world, we would expect immediate practical steps to be taken to protect groups most at risk of abuse," said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's crisis response director.

"At a minimum, this would include setting up single sex, well-lit toilet facilities and separate safe sleeping areas," she said.

One 22-year-old Iraqi woman told Amnesty that when she was in Germany, a uniformed security guard offered to give her some clothes in exchange for "spending time alone" with him

One 22-year-old Iraqi woman told Amnesty that when she was in Germany, a uniformed security guard offered to give her some clothes in exchange for "spending time alone" with him.

"The best way to avoid abuses and exploitation by smugglers is for European governments to allow safe and legal routes from the outset," Hassan said.

The vast majority of the migrants streaming into Europe are men, which leaves women particularly vulnerable, aid workers say.

Some aid workers say violence is harder to prevent because of an ad hoc system for receiving and registering refugees.

"One of the challenges we have been facing is that it is taking a long time for the international community, and by that I mean governments, to wake up to this crisis and to realise that it is not something that they can wish away," Jenny Becker, protection coordinator with the International Rescue Committee in northern Lesvos in Greece, told AP.

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