Hibiscus support the points raised in the joint letter addressed to the Prime Minister, dated October 3rd which was endorsed by 246 dedicated by organisations advocating for LGBTQ+ individuals and women refugees. We wish to amplify our concerns regarding recent statements made by the Home Secretary, particularly those highlighted at the Conservative Party conference. These remarks raise apprehensions about the government’s stance on refugees’ rights. Drawing upon our extensive experience working with asylum-seeking women since 1994, we possess profound expertise in assessing the efficacy of the current system and identifying areas requiring change to safeguard the rights and well-being of asylum-seeking women. It is alarming to observe the absence of appropriate consultation with migrant women and their representative organisations on the expressed ideas.

Asylum-seeking and migrant women, confronting poverty, violence, and re-traumatisation, undergo additional challenges upon arrival in the UK, navigating a system that often dehumanises their struggles. We advocate for a comprehensive discussion across sectors that support women, focusing on improvements needed in the system. Addressing the backlog of asylum claims, enhancing legal representation, refining information dissemination to women, and reconsidering the burden of proof required for claims are pivotal aspects. However, we emphasize that these concerns merely scratch the surface.

The system also needs to be sensitised to the lived experiences of women, acknowledging the violence they endure, including instances of trafficking. The current system, unfortunately, neglects these critical issues, and the government’s adoption of restrictive measures further creates barriers. We endorse the plea to reaffirm commitment to the 1951 UN Refugees Convention and the 1967 Protocol. We implore the government to engage in a constructive dialogue with specialist organisations representing asylum-seeking women and LGBTQ+ individuals. Collaboratively, we can work towards refining laws that offer support to those encountering challenging circumstances.

We also call on the government to extend the new 7-day rule on notice to evict to 56 days because the new rule is increasing women’s vulnerability and putting them at risk of homelessness. In our work, we see on a daily basis how the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies continue to drive marginalised migrant women into homelessness and destitution – and therefore into the path of abuse, exploitation, poor mental health and criminalisation. We strongly urge the government to prioritise the implementation of a gender and trauma-informed approach when addressing the needs of women, in particular victims of trafficking and gender-based violence, as well as pregnant women and mothers with children. Investing in such an approach is crucial for ensuring comprehensive and sensitive support tailored to the unique challenges and experiences faced by these individuals.