Global Resources

Too much pain: female genital mutilation & asylum in the European Union - a statistical overview

Publisher: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Publication Date: Mar 2013
A girl or woman seeking asylum because she has been forced to undergo, or is likely to be subjected to, female genital mutilation (FGM) can qualify for refugee status in the European Union (EU) under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Harmful practices in breach of international human rights law and standards cannot be justified on the basis of historical, traditional, religious or cultural grounds. This document is an update to the previous publication ‘Too much pain: female genital Mutilation & asylum in the European Union - a statistical overview’, the first comprehensive analysis of (FGM) and asylum in the EU. These publications are based a European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) study on FGM in the EU and Croatia, which generated statistical evidence to help address the specific vulnerabilities of female asylum-seekers affected by FGM, as well as refugee girls and women who have undergone FGM and are living in EU Member States.

In 2013, over 25,000 women and girls sought asylum from FGM-practising countries. This number has steadily increased since 2008. These women and girls come mainly from Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iraq, Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. In the same year, these women and girls applied for asylum mainly in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, France, the UK and Belgium. The researchers estimate that around 16,000 women and girls could potentially have already been affected by FGM at the time of their arrival in the EU in 2013. In the absence of data collected by the national asylum authorities, UNHCR has estimated that over 2,000 asylum claims on grounds of FGM may have been received in 2011. The authors emphasise that it is now essential to ensure the correct transposition and implementation of the EU legislative framework, guaranteeing protection to women and girls at risk. The UNHCR welcomes the European Commission November 2013 Communication 'Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation,' where the Commission has committed to encouraging Member States to continue, start or increase the use of financial incentives for the resettlement of children and women at risk, including those at risk of gender-based violence (GBV).

Recommendations for actions include:
  • The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Member States should reflect the specific issues raised by FGM and gender-based claims in their training tools, and develop training material to support the identification of specific needs and vulnerabilities.
  • EU Member States need to develop country- and community-tailored prevention and protection policies and responses for the abandonment of FGM in the EU. Social, linguistic, religious and cultural barriers may hinder the access of these refugee women and girls to specialist health and support services. The specify needs of women and girls who are living with the long-lasting physical, sexual and mental health problems resulting from FGM, and integrating into EU Member States as refugees, must be addressed.
A companion video to this study ‘Too Much Pain - The Voices of Refugee Women’ is available to watch online: a href="/%3C/span%3E%3Cspan%20lang%3D"EN-US" xml:lang="EN-US">"></a>