The following letter was written to the Speaker for Women’s Political Parliamentary Groups in Germany by a consortium of four women’s-rights advocacy groups in Germany. These groups are alarmed by current conditions in German refugee camps, which they feel are not conducive to the well-being of their female residents.
The German reader who tipped us to this letter includes this synopsis of the letter’s contents:
Add another one to the long list of German problems. Four women’s organisations in the German state of Hesse have sounded the alarm bell.
Having interviewed many women in those German refugee camps, their findings were disturbing. Those massive refugee camps sprouting up all over the German landscape have no segregated facilities for men and women, no “quiet rooms” for women, not even locks on the stall doors. Not to mention totally inadequate security.
Rape of women and even children in these camps is rife. There is also talk of forced prostitution rings. Women in these camps more often than not keep on their street clothes when they go to sleep. Going for a pee in the middle of night is already a high-risk undertaking.
Within twelve hours of receiving the tip, the original letter was taken down from the German site where it had been posted. Fortunately, I saved a copy of it, and the PDF of the letter is now available here (in German).
Many thanks to JLH for his prompt translation of the text. Pay special attention to the palliative measures recommended by the signators of the letter, which might be summarized as “We need a lot more of the same to help these women, and hang the expense!”
Readers are left to draw their own conclusions.
To the Speaker for Women’s Political Parliamentary Groups
August 18, 2015
Re: The situation of refugee women in the Hessian initial admission facility (Hessischen Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung/HEAE) and its branches
Dear Ladies and Dear Mr. Rock,
A consequence of the steadily increasing flow of refugees is the further exacerbation of the situation for women and girls in the Giessen initial admission facility (HEAE) and its branches.
The accommodations in large tents, with sanitary facilities not separated by gender, spaces that cannot be closed off, no retreat areas for women and girls — to name just some of the space considerations — increase the defenselessness of women and children inside the facility. This situation plays into the hands of those men who habitually relegate women to a subordinate role, and treat traveling women as fair game.
The result is numerous rapes and sexual attacks, and there are also reports of forced prostitution.
It must be stated clearly that these are not isolated incidents.
Women report that they — and also children — have been raped and otherwise sexually attacked. That is why many women sleep in their street clothes. Women report that they do not go to the toilet at night, because rapes and sexual attacks have happened there and in the sanitary facilities. Even during the day, moving through the camp is frightening.
Many women, besides fleeing wars or civil wars, are also on the run for sexually specific reasons, for instance, the threat of forced marriage or genital mutilation. These women are prey to particular dangers as they flee, especially if they are alone or with only their children. The company of male relatives or acquaintances, however, does not always offer protection from violence, but can lead to dependence and sexual exploitation.
Most refugee women have had a multiplicity of traumatizing experiences in their countries of origin. Over the years, they have been victims of violence — exposed to kidnappings, torture, extortion and rape.
The feeling of arriving here in safety, and being able to move about without fear, is a gift for many women.
The present situation in the initial admission facility, however, can re-traumatize or cause new traumas. It cannot and must not be that those among the fugitives who are most in need of protection — women and children — are those who suffer most, in what is a problematic situation for everyone in the HEAE.
Therefore, we ask you, as the non-partisan alliance, to join in our request for the immediate construction of protective areas (separated living units or houses) in the HEAE for women and children traveling alone — with consideration of relationships, cultural and religious aspects.
The areas must be so constituted that men have no access to the women’s quarters, excluding emergency services and security personnel. in addition, sleeping areas, leisure rooms, kitchens and sanitary facilities must be connected as an enclosed unit — and therefore only accessible by the lockable and monitored entry to the house or apartment.
For women who have had to endure dangers, access to help must be guaranteed. This implies trained (male and female) interpreters at the disposal of the assistance system, either cost-free or with cost absorption.
Appropriate care for women who have been raped or experienced other threats must be assured.
We ask you as a non-partisan alliance to promptly and decisively support our requests for the improvement of the situation at the HEAE.
Signing for their organizations:
Günter Woltering, Der Paritätische Hessen (Parity, Hesse)
Sigrid Isser, LandesFrauenRat Hessen (State of Hess, Women’s Council)
Brigitte Ott, pro familia Hessen
Friederike Stibane, Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Hessischer Frauenbüros (Hessian Consortium, Women’s Office)