More women than ever before are migrating alone in search of a better life, but Caritas Internationalis says systems aren’t in place to prevent them from being exploited or abused. In a report published today, Caritas says governments and social services dealing with migration need to address migrant women’s needs.
In its report The female face of migration: advocacy and best practices for women who migrate and the families they leave behind, Caritas documents the challenges faced by some of over 104 million women who are seeking opportunities outside their homelands and travelling independently from their families. Some find better jobs, education opportunities and greater freedoms. But too frequently on their journey and upon arrival they are cheated, abused, raped or discriminated against.
“We urgently need to change the way we think about women’s migration,” says Caritas Internationalis Advocacy and Policy Director Martina Liebsch, “because the current system is failing to protect women who migrate.”
“The maltreatment of migrant women is often invisible,” Liebsch says. “It takes place in people’s homes, where domestic workers are beaten, go unpaid or made to work unreasonable hours. It takes place in brothels, where traffickers sell women into forced prostitution. It takes place on farms, where women are bonded into labour contracts that amount to little more than modern slavery. It takes place in urban areas, where women from rural areas are maltreated, underpaid, and abused. And it takes place during the migration journey, when smugglers take advantage of women’s vulnerability.”
Caritas wants female migrants to be able to migrate in security and safety. Caritas calls for countries to adopt measures that will protect women, including pre-departure counseling, refugee registration, and labour inspection. Governments should review migration policies to assess their impact on female migrants.
Caritas wants more care for families in which the mother is separated from her children. “Many women leave children behind, sometimes to take care of other people’s children abroad,” says Liebsch. “Left with relatives, their own children grow up without a mother. We need policies that keep families together at best–and at the least offer social protection to the children left behind.”
Women who flee from terrible work situations, and even torture, risk going to jail when their work permit is tied to the employer who has abused them. Caritas wants female migrants, whatever their legal status, to be able to seek redress and claim their basic human rights.
Migrant women have a lot to offer their own countries and the countries where they work. “Female migrants are not victims by nature but are victims of inequitable systems, prejudices and abuse,” says Liebsch. “It’s time we value their contribution by making migration policies favorable for them and by protecting them.”
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