Refugee Council announces conference on the challenges, changes and choices facing refugee women - Refugee Council
March 17, 2005

Refugee Council announces conference on the challenges, changes and choices facing refugee women

Solicitor General Harriet Harman MP is to speak at ‘Challenges, Changes, Choices’, a Refugee Council conference examining the unique experiences of refugee and asylum seeking women taking place at Regent’s College on Wednesday 23 March.

Women often suffer forms of abuse specifically related to their gender, such as sexual violence or genital mutilation, or trafficking. It can also be harder for women to have their claims for asylum accepted because gender issues are not explicitly recognised by international refugee law. Once here, a lack of cultural awareness and gender sensitivity can mean refugee and asylum seeking women may also face particular difficulties in getting the support they need.

Harriet Harman, who will be delivering a keynote speech about trafficking, said:

“Human trafficking is nothing less than modern-day slavery of women and children.

“It is violent, serious, organised international crime, so we have to co-operate across borders to tackle it, ensuring the protection of victims and witnesses, the detection and prosecution of offenders and the seizure of the proceeds of these crimes.

“No country in Europe can afford to ignore trafficking. All EU counties and those on the borders are countries of either origin, destination or transit. The UK will make human trafficking a priority when we take on the EU Presidency later this year.”

The conference will address these issues and look for ways in which they can be overcome. It will also introduce the Refugee Council Women’s Strategy, designed to promote the specific needs of asylum seeking and refugee women within Refugee Council’s work, and to act as a basis for exploring ways in which other organisations can respond to the needs of these women.

Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“Too often, the experiences of asylum seeking and refugee women are overlooked, both in policy and practice. Life is often made more difficult for refugee women simply because of a lack of cultural awareness and understanding of the particular problems they face. By raising awareness of these issues, we hope to encourage those working with refugee women to explore new ways of ensuring they are fully protected and supported.”


Members of the press are welcome. To attend, or for further information, please contact Hannah Ward at or from Monday 21 March on 020 7346 1213.
For urgent or out of hours inquiries ring 0870 0555500 & ask for pager 865169.

Other notes:

‘Refugee and Asylum Seeking Women: Challenges, Changes, Choices’ takes place on Wednesday 23 March 2005 at Regent’s College, Regent’s Park, Inner Circle, London NW1 4NS, from 9.30am to 4.45pm.

The conference is supported by UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.