Press Release – 19 June 2016

New data and case studies released on the situation of women in Calais

The Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP)[i], a non-governmental organisation dedicated to clarifying public perceptions of the situation faced by refugees and displaced people in Europe, today releases previously unseen statistics which raise concerns about the safety of women living in the Calais camp.

RRDP found that:

  • 42% of women they spoke to in Calais said they had experienced violence in the camp
  • 81.5% of women said they had experienced police violence since arriving in Calais
  • 73% of women said they felt unsafe in the camp
  • 56% of women said their health had suffered in the camp

At the time of the survey, fewer than 4% of people living in the informal camp were women, according to a census conducted by charity Help Refugees. However, these women are particularly vulnerable – partly because they are in such a minority.

The research also shows that 44% of the 27 women who were interviewed wanted to claim asylum in the UK because they have friends or family there. 92% of women said they lack access to advice about opportunities to change their situation and 88% said they have no access to information about European asylum regulations. 67% responded that they would wait in Calais ‘forever’ or ‘as long as it takes’ to reach the UK[ii]. Read the full report entitled ‘Unsafe Borderlands’ here.

Charity Women for Refugee Women[iii], whose new project Women at the Borders launches this Refugee Week, tells the story of one Eritrean woman, Sarah, in their new video released today.

Sarah spent 3 years travelling from Eritrea to Calais with her daughter, who is now 4 years old. Sarah’s husband has refugee status in the UK, but Sarah and her daughter have been trapped in Calais for 10 months.

Sarah says:

"We are thankful we made it here alive. I travelled through the Sahara desert like many other Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees. Only people who have made this journey understand how difficult it is. The journey is from one desert to another; we had no one to welcome us. I do not feel safe here [in Calais]. Our minds never rest."

Marta Welander, founder of the Refugee Rights Data Project, says:

"Our first-hand data indicates that women in the Calais camp are subject to high levels of violence, coupled with alarming living conditions. Also lacking access to adequate services and advice, these women risk becoming trapped in a harmful cycle of violence and poverty, putting their mental, physical and reproductive health at risk."

Natasha Walter, founder of Women for Refugee Women, says:

"It is heartbreaking to see women and children living in these circumstances in Europe. Governments need to act urgently to ensure that women and children are protected from psychological and physical harm when they cross borders. This Refugee Week, let’s see real action so that Sarah and women like her are no longer left in limbo in Calais."

[i] The Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP) is a non-governmental organisation established in late 2015. RRDP aims to fill the data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe by conducting independent field research. RRDP is run by professionals with expertise spanning a broad range of sectors. The group is independent of any political ideology or religion, and united by a commitment to defend the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable groups of people.

[ii] This survey was previously presented as ‘The Long Wait: Filling Data Gaps relating to Refugees and Displaced People in the Calais Camp’ in April 2016; these new gender disaggregated statistics shed new light on the situation specifically for women in the camp.

[iii] Women for Refugee Women is a charity which supports women who are seeking asylum and educates the public about issues to do with women seeking asylum. WRW’s new project, Women at the Borders, aims to support refugee women in northern France and, in partnership with Safe Passage UK, a Citizens UK programme, aims to support women to access legal routes to join their families in the UK.


For enquiries, please contact:

Natalie Stanton
Co-coordinator and Media Relations Manager - Refugee Rights Data Project
T: +44 (0)7817 380 897

Sarah Graham
Communications Executive - Women for Refugee Women
T: +44 (0)7518 256 815