As states close their borders to migration, the difference between asylum seekers and migrants has been blurred. This opens for prioritising policies on economy and immigration over these group’s human rights, particularly threatening the lives of racialised women.paneldebatt

Women’s rights to asylum and their (lack of) independent and legal status as immigrants in the Nordic countries, were the topics brought to discussion in a morning session on the second day of the Nordic Forum. The panel consisted of Susanne Nour Magnusson, Dept. Director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Britta Thomsen, Danish member of the European Parliament and Fakhra Salimi, Director of the MiRA Resource Centre for Black, Immigrant and Refugee Women in Norway. All speaking out for strengthening racialised women migrant and asylum seekers’ rights.

Genderbased persecution

Ms. Magnusson highlighted the UN Convention on Refugees (CRSR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as the key legal documents to safeguard women asylum seekers in the Nordic countries, but also lifted the UN Convention on Torture and CEDAW as important. Ms. Magnusson referred especially to the concept of “belonging to a special social group” in the CRSR’s definition of who has the right to asylum as the concept including gender based persecution – persecution such as forced or child marriage, genital mutilation (FGM), gender violence and oppressing traditions which women suffer solely due to being a woman. But it is only FGM, which is explicitly included in the CRSR (since 2009).

Human rights for racialised women

Ms. Salimi pointed out that while the general feminist debate places itself within the framework of human rights, issues concerning racialised women – they being immigrants, asylum seekers or residents in the Nordic countries – commonly are placed within questions on ethnicity or minorities.

This obscures that the issues at stake are fundamental human rights, and not questions to be decided considering economic measures, immigration control or minority culture.

Undocumented domestic workers

Ms. Thomson’s concern was about the 11,000 domestic workers in Europe. Most of them are racialised women from former colonies, and many are undocumented and suffer from limited or no rights in the countries they reside. The panel found it particularly concerning that the Nordic countries are the ones with the most restricting policies for these women, basically denying them access to health care and legal assistance, and their children being denied education.

Recommendations

Concluding the session, the following recommendations were raised:

The Nordic governments should sign and ratify the UN Convention on the rights of migrants and their families (1999)

Migrant women entering the Nordic countries through family reunion must be granted independent legal status from day 1.

Nordic governments should grant undocumented migrants access to health care, education and legal assistance

Nordic governments should strengthen the rights of women asylum seekers and give protection on cases of gender base persecution.