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Women and girls on the move: A gender analysis of mixed migration from the Middle East to Europe - Briefing Paper #01, December 2016

Originally published



This briefing paper focuses on the experience of women and girls travelling to Europe, in order to provide a more detailed understanding of factors surrounding the decision to leave home, the type of journey undertaken, and their experience along the way. Produced by the Joint Analysis Unit on behalf of the newly established Mixed Migration Platform1, this briefing paper is the first in a series of studies examining specific issues pertinent to migration to, from and within the Middle East region. While gendered studies of migration are far from new, the prevalence of migration among women and girls varies by region and has also changed significantly over time. Since 2014, the characteristics of mixed migration from the Middle East towards Europe have shifted considerably in scale, composition and gender balance, and merit further investigation. Between 2014 and 2016, women and girls have made up a relatively small proportion of arrivals to Europe, accounting for less than a third of all first time asylum applicants. Despite the availability of some sex- and age-disaggregated data on arrivals by sea and formal asylum applications, relatively little is known about the specific drivers, triggers and experiences of women and girls travelling to Europe and how they may differ from those of men. In order to address this information gap, this paper draws upon existing data about women's migration in general, together with more recent studies conducted in transit and arrival countries to examine the characteristics and concerns specific to women and girls travelling to Europe as part of mixed migration flows, primarily from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Key messages

  • Women and girls make up just under a third of asylum applicants in the EU, a small but growing proportion.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that recent policy changes have discouraged women and girls from migrating to Europe — the proportion of female asylum applicants has continued to increase since the launch of the EU-Turkey Statement in March 2016. Vulnerability among refugees and other migrants is influenced by multiple factors, not just gender. Women and girls face different risks to men and boys at different points along the journey, leaving them both more and less vulnerable to specific threats.
  • Tightened restrictions on entry to Europe place all those who continue to travel at greater risk of violence and exploitation than prior to the closure of the Western Balkans route.
  • Humanitarian responders and government policy-makers should do more to account for other factors affecting vulnerability, such as socio-economic status, access to livelihoods, basic services and assistance.