Women's Services

Improving decision making campaign

On Friday 21st March 2014 at the above mentioned campain was launched at the University of Bradford and speakers included: Debora Singer – Asylum Aid – Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum

The Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Khadim Hussain made the opening remarks and launched the campaign

provides training to organisations working with refugee women, including statutory agencies across Yorkshire and Humber to build greater awareness and better working practices. Also, supporting the implementation of Asylum Aid’s Women’s Charter and Why Refugee Women Charter and networks in the region through collaborations, joint events, research and resource development.

Raising the Rooftops

In June 2012, Northern Refugee Centre received funding from Comic Relief to work in partnership with Why Refugee Women, DEWA Project and WomenCentre to raise the level of understanding and quality of provision for refugee women’s issues in Yorkshire and Humber. In line with the changed economic and political climate, NRC updated its community development strategy to be as effective as possible at influencing the changes it supports. We have defined the key roles as being catalyst, convenor and broker.

As catalyst in the Raising the Rooftops project we have supported the independent development of key groups, including Why Refugee Women and DEWA through providing office space, mentoring, funding for volunteers, workshops and conference expenses. We have also worked with wider networks, all the time trying to ensure that the needs of refugee and asylum seeking women are being addressed by agencies, community organisations, statutory authorities and contract holders. In particular we have been working with community partners and health services around Yorkshire and Humber and the Rape Crisis regional network. We have been delighted to support Mama Africa in Rotherham, a dynamic new refugee women’s group that held its launch in September.

As convenor we provided administrative support for conferences organised by Why Refugee Women and DEWA, building on the momentum from the Raising the Rooftops conference held early in 2012 to launch the project and identify the key priorities for the year ahead. We provided administrative support to WomenCentre to deliver training in Sheffield and Halifax. We led leadership workshops bringing together key agencies working with refugees and asylum seekers in Huddersfield and took the lead in organising business planning events to develop the way forward for NRC in its regional delivery and policy influencing work. We also put regular updates on the NRC websites.

As broker, a particularly exciting development came when we linked with City of Sanctuary’s health stream and Refugee Council’s Health Befriending Network. Together with various other partners from universities, health services and agencies around the region we worked with refugee service users to develop a programme for a conference held in Bradford in September “Tackling Health Inequalities”. We hope that there will be many positive developments over the year ahead as a result of the links and knowledge shared. We have been tracking the development of the Immigration Bill as it has passed through Parliament and will be taking every step possible to prevent access to healthcare for migrants becoming any further restricted. We are also working with health providers around the region to build on evidence-based best practice.

We are currently offering training to the wider advice sector so that the appalling practice of human trafficking is better understood and reported. We also offer leadership training and mentoring for community groups and forums supporting refugees and new migrants and host trainings by other agencies, including the Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law, Refugee Council, Asylum Aid and Women for Refugee Women.

Comic Relief Womens Project March 2013 - team - Copy

From left: Jeni Vine (NRC), Tchiyiwe Chihana (DEWA),
Ruby Sheikh (ARKH), Nacera Harkati
and Beatrice Botomani (Why Refugee Women)

‘Safe Spaces’ for Women Refugees and Asylum Seekers

This Project has established a partnership between ARKH and Haven Project to provide a structured and integrated support package of psychotherapy, immigration advice and therapeutic casework to refugee and asylum seeking women in Hull. The project aims to increase well-being, emotional resilience and the likelihood of success in an asylum claim.

ARKH and Haven Project are dedicated asylum/refugee service providers and have developed expertise and best practice through their combined experience of over 20 years of service provision in Hull. We rely on a user-led model of service development and the proposed project will seek to combine this with models of ‘Therapeutic Casework’ and provide a safe place for women to explore issues arising from multiple losses (include losses of actual people, their culture, country, home, status in society and language). The support provided will be enhanced by incorporating legal advice at OISC Level 2 and introducing trained psychotherapists into the process. The project will integrate the support provided by ARKH and Haven Project, eliminating gaps in service provision and promoting the disclosure of traumatic events which will feed into asylum claims. Success will be the validation of client’s voices and experiences within the asylum process; it is hoped that this will increase the likelihood of gaining legal aid funding for women’s asylum claims whilst providing a healing space in which they can achieve self reconciliation and regain self-respect.

Based on a 2011 sample by Asylum Aid, approximately 87% of women’s asylum cases are refused at initial decision stage as a result of a lack of understanding of their gender-based complexity. A more recent report by Asylum Aid identified that ‘the existing legal aid funding framework may not cover the additional work required of legal representatives before taking [gender-related claims] to appeal’. There is also a significant body of evidence indicating that ‘disclosure [of women’s traumatic experiences] will often not happen until a containing helping relationship has been established and until the women’s most immediate needs have been met (Refugee Council, 2009). This is explicitly recognised by UKBA in their guidance to caseworkers which states that ‘there may be a number of reasons why a woman may be reluctant to disclose information, for example feelings of guilt, shame, concerns about family dishonour…this should not automatically count against her’.

The closure of Immigration Advisory Service (IAS),Refugee Legal Centre (RLC) and further restrictions on legal aid due to reduced funding and strict ‘Prospect of Success’ testing have reduced local access to representation of asylum/immigration cases. The closure of local asylum and refugee services such as the 167 Centre has further reduced local sources of legal, practical and emotional support in addition Hull’s geographical isolation prohibits affordable travel to other sources of support.

The services will be provided to women asylum seekers and refugees based in Hull identified as vulnerable through a joint assessment procedure: ARKH will support clients with practical issues (immigration advice, housing, education, welfare benefits, health, advocacy, emotional support) and Haven will provide culturally appropriate counselling to women who are ready to address their emotional needs and support the submission of evidence to support their asylum case. Regular meetings will support the development of a cohesive service to support the recovery of women along with joint assessment procedures and sessions with clients.

Client appointments will range from weekly (for clients assessed as being of high need) to monthly (for low need clients). There will be significant fluidity between categories depending on the women’s circumstances especially as requirements resulting from asylum cases may create a situation of high need which then subsides.The project is the first local initiative to bring together immigration/ legal advice and counselling in order to help women disclose and then validate and represent their experiences within the asylum process and beyond.

See summary of the Raising the Rooftops conference:

Successful regional report launch of Refused: The experiences of women denied asylum in the UK

NRC provides training to organisations working with refugee women, including statutory agencies across Yorkshire and Humber to build greater awareness and better working practices. Also, supporting the implementation of Asylum Aid’s Women’s Charter and Why Refugee Women Charter and networks in the region through collaborations, joint events, research and resource development.


The Government has acknowledged the need to "develop targeted strategies to help particular kinds of people...where they face distinct barriers, or especially deep and persistent inequalities." (Strengthening Women's Voices in Government, 2011).

The government's drive to give local areas more decision-making power makes it all the more vital that refugee women, who are already so marginalised, have mechanisms to support their voice being heard.

Celebrating refugee women’s contribution

NRC wishes to give tribute to the women volunteer workers, many of whom are seeking sanctuary themselves, who have supported the project and given their time, skills and expertise to it. They demonstrate the dignity, creativity and ability of refugee women.

There is still a lot of excellent work around refugee women’s issues. Below is a selection of projects to look out for:

Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) groups – ‘WAST women: We are often in vulnerable situations - isolated, traumatised, in ill health, facing destitution, homelessness, and deportation. But we refuse to be invisible and we are making our voice heard.’

  • Women for Refugee Women - Women for Refugee Women (WRW) challenges the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK. They work to empower women who have sought sanctuary in the UK to speak out about their own experiences to the media, to policy-makers and at public events. WRW aim to give a voice to women who are all too often unheard and unseen.

    Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law -The Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law is a charitable Research Centre with the aim of providing high quality applied research to inform legal decision making, benefiting people who have been oppressed, persecuted and victimised and ensuring access to justice for all.

  • DEWA Project aims to be an agent of women’s empowerment through skills development, campaigning and advocacy. Our vision is clear: Equality, Dignity and Respect for all women.
  • Rights of Women – ‘a women’s voluntary organisation committed to informing, educating and empowering women concerning their legal rights’.
  • Oxfam’s ‘Routes to Solidarity’ project – which aims to ‘create a stronger black and minority ethnic (BME) women’s sector, with increased strategic and influencing power, particularly in the North of England.’

  • The Women’s Project at Asylum Aid which aims to ‘enable women seeking asylum in the UK to obtain protection and security, to maintain their dignity and to be treated with respect during the asylum process.’ Join the +200 organisations, including Amnesty International, that have signed up to the ‘Charter of Rights of Women seeking asylum’.

  • Why Refugee Women Charter for Yorkshire and Humber underlines the strengths of refugee women and their important role within communities. It highlights some of women's specific needs and why services should understand these. It consists of both minimum standards for working with refugee women in Yorkshire and Humber and aspirational standars.
  • Refugee Council’s work with women and its Vulnerable Women’s Project. ‘The project works with women who have been the victims of rape and sexual violence in their countries of origin and here in the UK.’

This is in addtion to all the many vital support services which exist, including women only conversation groups, voluntary self-help groups, community groups and organisations working to empower and support refugee women to mention.

For details of other projects working with refugee women, please see the projects listed in this news item (here).

Information on Women Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Over half of all the settled asylum seekers and refugees in the UK are women, however the specific needs of women are routinely overlooked in both asylum policy and practice.

Gender sensitive services and community initiatives specifically targeting women are crucial because:

  • The asylum system and related services have traditionally ignored the experiences of women (Refugee Action, 2002).
  • Women refugees are often fleeing gender-based persecution which continues to impact on their daily lives.
  • Some refugee women come from highly gender-segregated and patriarchal societies.
  • It is women who often have childcare responsibilities.
  • Refugee women face a combination of gender and racial discrimination, particularly in the job market.
  • Some refugee women experience gender-based abuse in the UK, such as domestic violence.

There are many gender focused campaign and advocacy organisations supporting the interests of refugee and new migrant women. Click for more details