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Asylum Applications From Victims Of Sexual Violence

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 3 September 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to ensure that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Guidelines for the victims of sexual violence are implemented. [HL3145]

Our current approach to asylum claims from women is generally compatible with that set out in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) guidelines. We recognise the need for sensitivity in dealing with asylum applicants and this is stressed in the training and guidance provided to staff involved in the asylum process. This focuses particularly on the need to handle applications sympathetically so as to reduce anxiety, and on ensuring that caseworkers understand cultural differences and respond appropriately.Gender is taken into account in the assessment of individual claims where this is relevant. In practice, few asylum applications by women in the United Kingdom turn solely on gender issues. Applications normally involve claims of persecution on the grounds of race or religion or that a particular group of women face persecution.Rape and other forms of sexual violence may amount to persecution. Where the treatment of women generally in a particular country is discriminatory, whether such treatment amounts to persecution will depend on the circumstances of the individual case.Those who do not meet the requirements of the convention may nevertheless be granted exceptional leave to remain if there are compelling humanitarian reasons for doing so.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they plan to acknowledge rape as grounds of asylum where sexual violence has been used as a method of torture and persecution in another country. [HL3146]

Where rape or any other form of sexual violence or torture amounting to persecution is committed for one of the reasons set out in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the applicant would qualify for refugee status. If, in the individual case, the requirements of the 1951 convention are not met, consideration will be given to the grant of exceptional leave to remain.

asked Her Majesty's Government:How they will ensure that victims of rape abroad who seek asylum in this country receive the same standard of treatment as should be accorded to victims of rape in this country. [HL 3191]

The need for sensitivity in dealing with all asylum applicants is recognised and stressed in training and guidance to all staff involved in the handling of asylum claims. Interviewers are alert to the special needs of female asylum seekers who may be particularly vulnerable and will take this into account when interviewing applicants. Requests for female interviewers and interpreters are complied with as far as is operationally possible.