When fleeing their homes, refugees have not only hopes of a better future stowed away in their luggage, but also fear; just in refugee housing alone, going to the restroom is dangerous for women and children, according to reports from the German Institute for Human Rights and Amnesty International. The danger of sexual assault is simply too large, such as in the Jordanian Zaatari Camp on the Syrian border.
Women flee their home countries for various reasons. The United Nations mentions, aside from oppression and political and religious persecution, the sex-specific threat of genital mutilation. The journey from their home countries alone is connected to the risk and fear of sexual harassment. In this way, fear has become a constant companion for girls and for women travelling either with or without their children. Arriving in Germany often doesn't put an end to the situation. According to media reports, women and children fear sexual violence from private security forces and other refugees.
According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, roughly one third of the 50,000 asylum applicants of January of 2016 were women. The FEMM Committee – the EU committee that oversees the equal rights of women and genders – recognized at the start of 2016 that the implementation of security measures for women was absolutely necessary. The EU even implemented a policy (2013/33/EU) for this in 2013. In it, member states are called upon to respond to gender-related violence against those in need of protection living in temporary settlements.
Because of Asylum Package II, Germany violates this policy. Originally, the asylum law was meant to ensure the protection of women against violence. This included separated accommodation, through which women would live together in communal housing. But such security measures were never implemented. The National Council of German Women's Organizations criticises the asylum package in a letter to the prevailing CDU and SPD parties: “It cannot be that we allow ourselves to become outraged over the sexual assaults on women which took place on New Years in Cologne, that we discuss further courses of action in response, but then allow the daily violence against refugee women to continue without ever addressing it.”
What's problematic is that many cases of violence against refugee women aren't made known, according to Elizabeth Ngari, founder of the initiative Women in Exile. People don't often talk about such incidents out of fear that their residence status could be threatened, says social worker Nivedita Prasad. Women in Exile additionally calls out the lacking sensibilities of police officials.
After that attacks on women in Cologne on New Years Eve of 2015, many of the large-scale police operations began their searches in the refugee shelters. According to Women in Exile, the police's presence, along with their demands that those affected should testify, created a climate of fear. National Council of German Women's Organizations fights to ensure that refugee women who have been victims of violence arn't merely reduced to their victim status, but instead, that they be acknowledged with respect for their strength, endurance, and their sense of responsibility.