UNSW joins fight to help refugee women

A report by UNSW researchers will be used in the world's refugee camps to help protect women and girls from violence.

Refugee inside

A representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched a UNSW report that will be used in refugee camps to protect women and girls at risk of violence and human rights abuse.

Regional Representative Richard Towle said the report, which was commissioned by the UNHCR, will improve the lives of 10 million refugees in camps in Bangladesh - where the work was carried out - and further afield.

The research was conducted last year in two camps that are home to 26,000 Rohingya refugees who fled the military junta in neighbouring Burma.

"In every refugee camp, there is level of absolute horror - but in this camp, it was significantly worse," says Dr Eileen Pittaway, the director of the Centre for Refugee Research (CRC) and one of the report's authors.

Dr Pittaway, who has been visiting refugee camps around the world for forty years, says all women and girls were vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence - but some were more likely to be killed, or forced into sex for survival.

"Our community consultations and risk assessment tool will help authorities provide solutions for those most at risk," she says.

"Answers might be to keep a lookout for single women, alert the appropriate authorities, or in extreme cases, facilitate their entry into a developed country like Australia."

The consultations assisted the UNHCR to identify a range of problems and to work with the refugees, the Bangladesh Government and the International Community to improve the lives of the refugee population.

The team from UNSW was joined in the field by colleagues from the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture and Amnesty International. They are seeking funding to further develop protection strategies for refugee women.