Our research

See Us, Believe Us, Stand With Us: The experience of lesbian and bisexual women seeking asylum in the UK

March 2023

Our first research report on the particular experiences of lesbian and bisexual women seeking safety. The research was co-ordinated with peer researchers, Raolat and Olivia, from the Rainbow Sisters, our solidarity group for LGBTQ+ refugee and asylum-seeking women and non-binary individuals. 

‘Seeking asylum has never been easy for our Sisters. Through this research we’ve seen that our individual experiences of fear, intimidation and struggle are part of a wider pattern of hostility that LBT women and non-binary people seeking asylum are subjected to. Here in the UK, we face the triple discrimination of racism, sexism and homophobia. The Home Office routinely disbelieves our stories and denies us protection.’


Hear Us

July 2020

The Sisters Not Strangers coalition surveyed 115 refugee and asylum-seeking women about how they have survived during the pandemic.

Women who were already living in poverty before the outbreak, told us that they had been made even more vulnerable to hunger and ill health.


Will I Ever be Safe?

February 2020

Women who have come to the UK to seek safety are instead being made homeless, hungry and vulnerable to abuse. ‘Will I ever be safe?’ is the largest recent research into how asylum-seeking women in the UK who are made destitute survive (with no access to statutory housing, financial support or right to work).

The report marks the launch of our new campaign against the destitution of asylum-seeking women, #SistersNotStrangers.


From One Hell to Another

July 2019

From One Hell To Another finds that the Home Office is locking up women from China who have been trafficked to the UK, in contravention of its own policies.

Jess Phillips MP, who led a debate in Parliament based on the findings of the report, said: ‘Hearing about Chinese women who are forced to have sex with more than ten men every day and beaten into submission is terrible. It is even more shocking to realise that when these women come to the attention of the Home Office, they are often being locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre rather than getting the support they need. It is time to stand up for the most vulnerable women in our society. The Home Office must carry out its own policies on trafficked women and ensure that they are protected.’


We Are Still Here

November 2017

We Are Still Here finds that vulnerable asylum-seeking women are still being locked up in immigration detention. This is a hard-hitting, critical report which was widely covered by Sky News, BBC and the Guardian on publication and whose findings have been frequently mentioned in Parliament.

In November 2017 Mohammad Yasin MP stated: “Research from Women for Refugee Women shows that women who have survived rape, female genital mutilation and other forms of gendered violence are still routinely detained in defiance of the guidance on the management of adults at risk. Will the Minister urgently assess why the guidance is failing these vulnerable women?” and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, replied: “I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to this important matter. I am aware of the research.”


The Way Ahead

March 2017

The Way Ahead lays out how to build an asylum process which does not rely on detention.

It explores the views and experiences of women refugees to show the harms of routine detention and the need to build a fairer and more humane asylum system.

In March 2017 Caroline Lucas MP stated in Parliament: ‘I commend to the Minister a report by Women for Refugee Women that sets out practical alternatives to detention as a routine part of asylum policy.’


I Am Human

January 2015

I Am Human looks closely at the experiences of women detained in Yarl’s Wood. It revealed that women are routinely watched and searched by male staff in the detention centre, despite Home Office denials.

It was widely covered, including on Channel 4 News, Guardian and BBC’s World at One, and resulted in new guidance from the Home Office to prevent men watching women on the suicide watch in Yarl’s Wood detention centre.


Detained: Women Asylum Seekers Locked Up in the UK

January 2014

Our hard hitting report which launched the Set Her Free campaign, Detained: women asylum seekers locked up in the UK was published on 29 January 2014.

With a foreword by Philippe Sands QC, and an article by actress Juliet Stevenson about her experiences of campaigning for women in detention, this report is essential reading for politicians, campaigners and journalists. It has been widely covered in the media, including BBC World Tonight, the Daily Mirror, Sky News and the Independent, and is frequently mentioned in Parliament.

In February 2014 Baroness Helena Kennedy said in the House of Lords: “I strongly urge the Minister and Members of this House to read a report called Detained, produced by Women for Refugee Women, an organisation that I ​know well. Read it and your hearts will break. So many of these women have experienced terrible persecution, yet the process they face in this country is neither fair nor just.”


Refused: The Experiences of Women Denied Asylum in the UK

Our groundbreaking report Refused: the experiences of women denied asylum in the UK examines the effects of refusal on women seeking asylum in the UK. For this report, Women for Refugee Women interviewed more than 70 women who had claimed asylum in the UK. Almost all of the women had been refused asylum. Of those refused asylum, more than half had been made destitute, with no means of support or housing, a quarter had been detained, and more than half had contemplated suicide.


Policy briefings and evidence

Informed by the experiences of refugee women in our network, WRW regularly gives evidence and writes policy briefings for MPs and Lords.

Watch Alphonsine Kabagabo and Priscilla Dudhia of Women for Refugee Women giving oral evidence to the Nationality and Borders Bill Committee

September 2021

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Women for Refugee Women’s written evidence to the Nationality and Borders Bill Committee

September 2021

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Women for Refugee Women’s joint written submission to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on people with protected characteristics

May 2020

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Women for Refugee Women’s written submission to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19

April 2019

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Watch Gemma Lousley of Women for Refugee Women giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee

March 2018

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Read Voke and Afiya, women with experience of detention, giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee

March 2018

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Women for Refugee Women’s briefing on the detention of pregnant women

March 2016

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Women for Refugee Women’s written submission to the review into the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons


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As a woman I have no country: the denial of asylum to women fleeing gender-related persecution by Frances Webber

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