Only one-third of asylum seekers in study reported rape, those who do report it face "hostility, stigma and discrimination"
The Independent: Women Against Rape finds many asylum seekers do not report rape due to Home Office culture of disbelief
02 January 2020
The Independent reported on Tuesday that research carried out by the charity Women Against Rape found that thousands of women asylum seekers are not reporting rape when claiming asylum in the UK as those who do report it face "hostility, stigma and discrimination".
Sian Evans of Women Against Rape told The Independent that a study of 52 women seeking asylum found only one-third had been able to report that they had endured rape or sexual violence in their home country.
Evans said woman who report rape when claiming asylum are very vulnerable to discrimination and racism from the Home Office and face a 'culture of disbelief'.
The Independent quoted Evans as saying: "This is just a small sample of the women who find our way to us. We have worked with thousands of women. Women in this position are very isolated. They are living on the street with no money to travel to services. They are scared of anyone knowing their problems because their immigration is not sorted and they are terrified of being deported. They are suspicious and frightened. They are invisible. It is a really hidden experience.
"Some are warned by their lawyer not to mention their rape because they won't be believed. Even when women do report, the Home Office routinely disbelieves them, and they are denied legal aid, proper representation and expert evidence to appeal. Women's claims are closed without the rape they have suffered and its devastating impact being considered."
Toufique Hussain of Duncan Lewis Solicitors echoed Evans and told The Independent that the Home Office routinely do not believe women's reports of rape, adding: "There is a culture of disbelief. It comes back to the hostile environment. The confrontational environment and tone of questioning in interviews and the reasons for questions are all geared for rejection. The starting point is the woman is not telling the truth."
In response, a Home Office spokesperson told The Independent that it takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers extremely seriously and victims of rape and sexual violence are given every opportunity to report these devastating crimes.
"The UK has a proud record of providing protection to vulnerable individuals and helping them to rebuild their lives … Individuals identified as potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are provided with free accommodation and specialist support," the spokesperson added.
Women Against Rape's Refuge from Rape & Destitution provides support, advice and assistance to women asylum seekers who have been victims of rape and domestic violence. You can read more about their work here.