Experiences of Female Refugees and Migrants in Origin, Transit and Destination Countries
This research report mainly builds on data collected between June and October 2017 through the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) including 1,062 surveys collected by 4Mi field monitors.
The 4Mi data includes interviews with women from Afghanistan, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Somalia. It is the first piece of research drawn from 4Mi that compares women’s migration experiences across different regions as it compares Afghan women on the move with women from East and West Africa. The 4Mi data is complemented with 29 in-depth qualitative interviews conducted in December 2017 with Afghan women and secondary research on West and East African women.
This report examines women’s migration experiences in origin, transit and destination countries. The focus is on Afghan women who are in the process of migrating from Afghanistan, in transit in Serbia or who have settled in Germany as their destination, and who have travelled along the East Mediterranean route.
The research also examines, through primary data from 4Mi, the experiences of Afghan women, in India and Indonesia; and East and West African women who migrated along the Central Mediterranean route through Libya. It draws on secondary literature to contextualise women’s migration experiences.
The aim of this research is to act as a pilot for gaining a better understanding of women’s migration experiences compared across regions, their protection needs along the way and how their journeys may or may not differ. This report contributes to filling gaps in knowledge about women’s migration journeys, suggesting further areas where research is needed, and offers analysis that may inform current and future programmes to assist and protect those on the move.
The research questions that this report adresses can be summarised as follow:
Drivers of migration: what are the main reasons for migration among females from Asia, East Africa and West Africa? How do women’s reasons for migrating differ between the regions?
Expectations: what are women’s expectations of the journey and of the destination country?
Information: how do women refugees and migrants access information on options for migrating and on possible support and services along the way?
Smuggler and trafficking networks: How do different female refugees and migrants from Asia, East Africa and West Africa? enter irregular migration?
Transport modalities: What are the different modalities of travel? How are they similar and/or different when compared across geographical locations and migration routes?
Protection: What are the main protection issues female refugees and migrants from the regions face along migration routes? Who are the perpetrators of abuse? And what are the differences and similarities in protection concerns along the migration routes?
The report illustrates: challenges that women refugees and migrants face during their journeys; and migration drivers including insecurity and violence, particularly in Afghanistan and East Africa, and the search for better economic opportunities, which predominantly drives West African refugees and migrants. Other factors influencing women’s migration decisions include social norms, domestic violence and – particularly for Afghan women – discrimination along ethnic lines. For respondents in East Africa, the predominant factor is to join family abroad.
Access to information is key in migration decisions and the report provides mixed patterns of evidence.
Social media and the internet are important sources of information, but women with access to these may not always be fully aware of the modes of travel, length of journey, and inherent risks and dangers.
Diasporas and networks of family and friends are important sources of information across regions, although women’s ability to contact them diminishes as the journey progresses and depends on the smugglers they are with. Within Afghanistan, for example, women report being able to access social media and to contact relatives. However, women who have already left their country of origin across the regions have lower levels of access to means of communication.
While most women are aware of the role of smugglers and for the most part use them at some point in their journey, the extent to which women are aware of the dangers of using smugglers, and how the women view them – whether as a travel agents, smugglers or traffickers – also varies. The 4Mi data suggests that most smugglers are not honest and do not always deliver on what they have promised for the price they have stated across the regions. Respondents in East Africa, in particular, were more likely to view their smugglers as criminals. This finding is supported by qualitative interviews conducted with Afghan women for this research and the broader literature, with women having little recourse if smugglers do not deliver on their promises.
The report sheds light on the range of abuses women refugees and migrants face; and the limited knowledge of and access to assistance and protection they have. It is common for women to face abuses across regions. In Libya, in particular on the desert stage of the journey, levels of human rights abuses are acute. The risk of abuse is closely linked to mode of travel, with women refugees and migrants who travelled by plane reporting lower levels of abuse and exploitation. This is illustrated by the relatively low frequency and types of abuses that Afghan respondents interviewed in India and Indonesia reported.
The protection concerns the report raises highlight the need for concerted efforts to ensure women are aware of their options for accessing assistance; and to work towards being able to provide this assistance and to pair these efforts with advocacy and programming changes.