May 11, 2015

Lawmakers from various countries call for better protection of female refugees

A total 20 female lawmakers who came together as part of an international summit titled “İstanbul Summit 2015” held in İstanbul on May 9 and 10 have called for more concrete steps to be taken to protect female refugees and asylum seekers in host countries.

Istanbul Summit, Workshop on Female Refugees

Lawmakers attending the summit, which was jointly organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) Women's Platform and Turkish aid organization Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anyone There), held a separate a workshop in the summit and came up with some suggestions to improve the conditions of female refugees in host countries.

Pointing out that the majority of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons are women and children, the lawmakers emphasized that refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons are vulnerable to various forms of violence, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, trafficking, discrimination, and the loss of spouses, children and homeland. “Thus women need psychological support as well as the fulfillment of basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter and health services,” the lawmakers stated in a declaration they prepared following the workshop.

Istanbul Summit, Workshop on Refugee Women

Stating that refugee camps may only serve a temporary purpose, as isolation is not a sustainable solution, the lawmakers pointed out that the aim of host countries should be to take the necessary measures to ensure the social integration of the refugees in the host society or to provide the refugees a safe return to their home society.

The lawmakers further stated that training should be provided to refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons by state and non-state actors in order to enable their social integration and sustainable self-sufficiency. “Refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons should be informed about their legal rights through awareness raising programs,” the lawmakers' declaration also stated.

Calling on the media to take initiatives to prevent refugees from being exposed to violence and hate speech, the lawmakers suggested that the media should avoid hate speech and thus facilitate understanding between the host community and the refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons and create a sense of belonging amongst the latter groups.

The lawmakers also suggested small action committees or groups involving female parliamentary members, journalists, activists and others in influential positions, especially in the corporate sector, should be organized in order to address the humanitarian, social and economic integration of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced women for a sustainable solution.

According to the lawmakers, parliamentary members in the host countries should be the voice and representatives of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, as well as their citizens, and a closer link between humanitarian responses and national development plans should be developed to ensure a long term vision for humanitarian assistance.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 10 May 2015, Sunday