On the 7th December, SEREDA Scotland will launch its findings into the experiences of forced migrant survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and the services they rely on. Led by the University of Birmingham in partnership with our organisation and with the support of Queen Margaret University, the findings build on SEREDA’s work across the UK, Turkey, Australia, Ukraine and Sweden to understand the nature and incidence of SGBV in countries of refuge.
Forced migration is gendered with men and women experiencing displacement in different ways. With women making up nearly half the forcibly displaced population, displacement is increasingly feminised. Women and girls face specific vulnerabilities to SGBV when forced to migrate and with the ongoing displacement of millions of women and children from Ukraine, the need for gender sensitive SGBV services has never been greater.
The research, undertaken in Spring 2022, interviewed survivors living in Scotland and Scottish organisations providing support for forced migrant or women survivors of SGBV.
Survivors and service providers described diverse experiences of SGBV across multiple stages of their forced migration journeys as well as ongoing vulnerability to further abuse due to powerlessness within relationships and within the immigration system itself. Abuse was often so common and normalised for many survivors that it was hard for them to recognise themselves as victims of crime.
Although asylum policy is not a devolved issue, Scotland has made a clear political commitment to the protection of the rights of migrants and those impacted by SGBV. The Scottish response is increasingly about raising awareness and understanding of the parameters government and civil society can operate within in order to mitigate the worst impacts of the UK immigration system. In particular, devolved policies on integration and trafficking present opportunities to capitalise on the findings and recommendations of SEREDA, outside of the influence of Westminster. For example, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, takes a broader definition of trafficking more in line with international human rights law and provides double the length of support (90 days) for survivors than in England and Wales. The New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy also eschews Westminster’s approach by committing to the integration of asylum seekers from day one rather than waiting until refugee status is granted (a process that can take many years).
The experiences of forced migrant survivors of SGBV in the UK are a stain on the nation state’s humanitarian record.
By enacting the recommendations in SEREDA (which includes awareness raising and training, specific service provision and improved coordination of strategy and services in and beyond Glasgow) Scotland is uniquely placed to improve the recovery and safety of those who have sought refuge here. Accounting for the needs of vulnerable migrants such as SGBV survivors in future policy such as the New Scots strategy is just one of a number of important changes that can be made.
Forced migration and sexual and gender-based violence: findings from the SEREDA project in Scotland will be launched on 7th December 2022 in Edinburgh in the presence of the Scottish Minister for Community Safety Elena Whitham as a speaker and special guest.