News / Europe

    Refugee Women Seeking Safety in Europe Risk Sexual Abuse, Violence

    A Syrian woman with her children takes a shelter in a iron box during a rainfall, after they arrived from Turkey to the Greek deserted island of Pasas near Chios on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 .
    A Syrian woman with her children takes a shelter in a iron box during a rainfall, after they arrived from Turkey to the Greek deserted island of Pasas near Chios on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 .
    Lisa Schlein

    The U.N. warns that refugee women and children seeking safety in Europe are at great risk of sexual abuse and violence throughout their journey.  An assessment mission conducted by the U.N. refugee agency, U.N. Population Fund, and the Women’s Refugee Commission finds measures to protect the women and girls are inadequate.

    The joint field mission was carried out in Greece and Macedonia in November.  It found those most at risk of sexual abuse and violence include single women traveling alone or with children, pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls, unaccompanied children and early married children.

    UNHCR spokesman William Spindler tells VOA it is difficult to know how widespread the phenomenon is because women are reluctant to speak about their experiences; but, he says it is feared the abuse to which they are subjected along the European migratory route is vastly underreported.  

    A migrant mother holds her baby walking towards a passenger train in Presevo, close to the Serbian border with Macedonia, 300 kilometers southeast of Belgrade, Serbia, Jan. 18, 2016.
    A migrant mother holds her baby walking towards a passenger train in Presevo, close to the Serbian border with Macedonia, 300 kilometers southeast of Belgrade, Serbia, Jan. 18, 2016.

    Under pressure

    He says women describe being forced to engage in transactional sex to pay for travel documents on their journey.  He says women fall prey to smugglers who demand a hefty price for transporting refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

    “In some cases, women have been put under pressure to perform sex with the smugglers in order to be allowed to continue," Spindler said. "There have also been cases in which women, girls and boys have lost their money…therefore, the only way that they can continue with their journey, find the money to continue with the journey is through selling themselves for money.”   

    Spindler says there also are reports of women being sexually abused by other refugees and migrants, and in some cases by officials in countries of transit.  He says small boys traveling alone also have been forced to perform sex by smugglers so they can continue their journeys.

    Safety precautions

    He says women and children are exposed to many dangers in overcrowded reception facilities or transit centers.  He says simple measures, such as providing separate toilets for men and women, and ensuring well lit and gender separated sleeping facilities, could reduce the potential risks.  

    Aid agencies are calling for action by European Union governments to protect refugee women and children from the dangers and exploitation facing them and to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: HeatheN from: USA
    January 22, 2016 1:18 AM
    THIS is why it was dumb to let in all those single men. But you couldn't tell the socialist and leftists ANYTHING without them screaming racism. They shut down the debate. Now they have a rape culture amidst them.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora