Women's voice blocked by asylum seeking process -- study reveals

Jun 24, 2011

Women refugees are not being processed fairly according to a University of Melbourne led study.

The study suggests Australia can do better in how it processes applying for . Researchers say gender-based persecution issues such as , , female genital mutilation, denial of education, and imprisonment need to be taken into account in the processing of women refugees.

The study was published in the Journal of Refugee Studies in May 2011 and involved researchers from the University of Melbourne, Ballarat University, Rutgers University, the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, and Princeton University.

The findings are based on information gathered from various sources, including interviews with 17 Australian asylum lawyers and a written response from Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The study indicated that although Australia has acknowledged women’s unique protection needs through policy documents, such policies are not consistently translating into practice.

This research identified two barriers to women’s claims: women were not always able to articulate and identify their gender-specific suffering as a criterion for refugee status; and some decision makers refused to believe women’s experiences of gender-based persecution, or did not see these as important enough to warrant asylum.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Dr Dean Lusher said Australia’s Immigration system is lacking. “Women’s experiences of violence often remain invisible or discounted when processing refugee application status in Australia,” he said.

Dr Leah Horowitz from Rutgers University and Dr Yuri Saalmann from Princeton University, who started the research at the University of Melbourne  believe women may feel uncomfortable disclosing difficult information to male case officers, interviewers or interpreters during the asylum seeking process.

“Because Immigration staff cannot know in advance whether suffering has occurred, they should automatically assign female case officers, interviewers and interpreters to women seeking asylum. This is not currently the case,” Dr Horowitz said.

The results also suggest that female asylum seekers in Australia should be given fundamental information and advice on making claims, during the assessment process.

Dr Lusher said, “We remain critical about the asylum seeker application process itself, which still does not appear to recognize that women are unlikely to make claims without clear signposts, information about the procedure, or opportunities for doing so.”

Explore further: Young people in detention being held for longer without trial

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UQ law student research exposes boat people myths

Aug 16, 2010

A research project undertaken by a group of University of Queensland undergraduate students has exposed the widely believed election myth that boat people are “flooding our borders”.

Modern society made up of all types

Nov 04, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

Study finds 'masculine' women get more promotions at work

Jan 27, 2011

Women who demonstrate stereotypical masculine traits should be mindful of their behavior if they want to get ahead in the workplace. That is the finding of researchers at George Mason University and Stanford University who ...

'Poor' knowledge about breast cancer and fertility

Apr 04, 2011

Fertility is a priority for many young women with breast cancer, yet new research has found many have little knowledge about fertility issues, leading to confusion and conflict around planning for a family.

Humans more diverse than we allow

Mar 29, 2011

A question central to Gillian Einstein's research is, How can I do science that would not make essentialist assumptions about the body?

Recommended for you

Power can corrupt even the honest

Oct 01, 2014

When appointing a new leader, selectors base their choice on several factors and typically look for leaders with desirable characteristics such as honesty and trustworthiness. However once leaders are in power, can we trust ...

Learning at 10 degrees north

Oct 01, 2014

Secluded beaches, calypso music and the entertaining carnival are often what come to mind when thinking of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. But Dal Earth Sciences students might first consider Trinidad's ...

User comments : 0