FGM and Asylum in Europe: Need for common guidelines and support for asylum authorities across the EU

by zoejardiniere

01.03.13 UNHCR has compiled a report called ‘Too Much Pain’, a statistical overview of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Asylum in the EU. The report is an attempt to bridge the knowledge gap that exists as regards FGM and the extent of its practice both worldwide but also within the European Union.

The report reveals the scale of the problem of asylum seeking women and girls who are at risk of FGM. 20,000 applications for asylum are made per year in the EU by women and girls from countries where FGM is practiced, around 20% of the total number of asylum applications made by women. Of these, around 9,000 have already been mutilated, while only 1,000 claims per year directly raise the question of FGM. This report stresses the need to establish common guidelines, training and support for asylum authorities across the EU to identify and adequately address the needs of this group of women.

The launch of the UNHCR report took place at a conference held on 27 February for the Amnesty International led campaign to put pressure on the EU to take action to end the practice of FGM. At the conference, the testimony of a 25 year old Somali refugee made clear the need to provide specific training and increased sensitivity for asylum staff when addressing FGM in asylum claims. The woman felt ashamed to tell her story in front of the male interpreter she was given for her interview, and later had to contend with the ignorance of medical staff during her examination.

This report goes some way towards achieving one of the five key goals of the campaign to end FGM; that of improved data collection. The campaign urges the EU institutions to take concrete steps such as developing and adopting an Action Plan against FGM. It also encourages Member States to sign up without delay to the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women.