Sisters Not Strangers Coalition: We Are Survivors Too


Today marks the first day of the Government’s international conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict. Whilst the conference presents an important opportunity to work with survivors in strengthening the international response to sexual violence, the Sisters not Strangers Coalition feels compelled to call out the Government’s hypocrisy.

The Government states that addressing conflict-related sexual violence is a ‘top UK priority’ and calls itself a ‘global leader’ in this area. It has been using the hashtag #ForSurvivorsWithSurvivors to promote the conference. Yet such statements are wholly incompatible with the serious harms that the UK’s asylum system inflicts on survivors of sexual violence.

Together, members of our coalition support hundreds of women seeking asylum in the UK. We know from our lived experience, and work with survivors, that many women who come to this country have fled sexual and gender-based violence, including violence suffered during conflict. Yet despite all the trauma that they experience, when they come to the UK they face further suffering and struggle to access refugee protection. Too often survivors are treated with disbelief, which exposes them to destitution and further sexual violence in the place where they hoped to find sanctuary.

This April, instead of remedying these harms, and in the face of overwhelming opposition from women’s groups and international experts, the Government passed the Nationality and Borders Act. The Government justified these cruel changes by claiming that they would benefit women when in fact they punish survivors for seeking safety, and make it even more difficult for them to rebuild their lives.

The Sisters not Strangers Coalition stands in solidarity with all survivors who are attending the Government’s conference. We very much hope it will result in concrete and meaningful actions to prevent sexual violence in conflicts around the world. However, if the UK Government is genuine about supporting survivors, it must also do the following at home: scrap harmful asylum policies, including the Nationality and Borders Act; ensure that asylum-seeking women are included in efforts to tackle violence against women and girls; and listen to survivors in building a new, compassionate asylum system.

We are survivors too.

The Sisters not Strangers Coalition

Women for Refugee Women Empower Activities Regional Networks CARAG



Supported and signed by:

Against Violence & Abuse (AVA)

Apna Haq

Ashiana Network

Baobab Women’s Project CIC

Centre for Women’s Justice 

Coventry Migrant Women’s Houses (CMWH)

Disabled Survivors Unite (DSU)
End Violence Against Women Coalition

Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS UK)
Hull Sisters
IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services)


Juno Women’s Aid

Karma Nirvana 
Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)
Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation-MEWSo
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Rape Crisis Scotland

Refugee Women of Bristol (RWoB)
René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights


Rights of Women


Safety 4 Sisters NW

Solace Women’s Aid

Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse
Stay Safe East, Supporting Disabled Survivors
Step Up Migrant Women

Surviving Economic Abuse

UK Women’s Budget Group (WBG)

Women’s Aid Federation of England

The Women’s Centre Cornwall
Welsh Women’s Aid

White Ribbon UK
Woman’s Trust
Women’s Resource Centre

The Three Hijabis

Traveller Movement