Ireland Says Welcome statement on the referendum on the 8th amendment: the impact of unwanted pregnancies on refugee, asylum-seeking and undocumented women

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Ireland Says Welcome statement on the referendum on the 8th amendment: the impact of unwanted pregnancies on refugee, asylum-seeking and undocumented women
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Press release issued by Ireland Says Welcome on 15 May 2018
Ireland Says Welcome, in solidarity with refugee, undocumented and asylum seeking women in Ireland, wishes to draw attention to the situation of this group, who are easily forgotten in the upcoming referendum.

Asylum seeking and undocumented women face many unique challenges in responding to crisis pregnancy. If they are in the asylum system, they must fund their medical and other costs out of a weekly allowance of €21.60 – if not, they must find the money themselves. They must seek information in an unfamiliar system, often in an unfamiliar language. They are more vulnerable than the general population to be in a controlling or coercive relationship, and less likely to be able to find the resources to deal with a crisis pregnancy.

Refugee and asylum seeking women are also more likely to be affected by sexual violence than the general Irish population. Where their cases are reported (many are not), women have often been subjected to particularly extreme forms of violence. In the event that an asylum seeking or undocumented woman feels she needs abortion care as a result of sexual violence, she is restricted in many ways, but most of all in her ability to travel. Without travel documents, it is almost impossible for these migrants to travel outside of Ireland. Thus, they are forced to continue with a pregnancy, even as a result of rape.

In 2014, a woman known as Miss Y claimed asylum in Ireland, having been raped in her own country. When she learned that she was pregnant as a result of the rape, she sought an abortion, but she had no travel documents and no means with which to leave Ireland. By the time she was assessed by three doctors in accordance with legislation, the pregnancy was advanced. Suicidal, she was moved to a maternity hospital against her wishes, and forced to undergo a caesarean section against her wishes. Her baby, once delivered, was passed into state care.

Recognising the specific impact of the 8th amendment on refugee, asylum seeking and undocumented women, Ireland Says Welcome calls on voters to consider the lives of migrant women when they cast their votes on May 25th. While asylum seekers and undocumented people do not have a vote in this referendum, they experience unique and specific problems when confronted with crisis pregnancies.

Contact: Carol Ballantine
Phone: 086 6045546
Email: carolballantine [at]

Note to editors:

· Ireland Says Welcome is a group of people who believe that Ireland can be a welcoming home for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. We embrace the diversity that migration brings to Ireland, and welcome every effort to protect and support people seeking the opportunity to make new lives in Ireland. We are a member group of Comhlámh, the Irish Association of Development Workers and Volunteers.

· Refugee and asylum seeking women are disproportionately represented in sexual violence services in Ireland. They are more likely to report and seek help for sexual violence than the general population (we can’t know how many of them experience violence without seeking help). Such violence may have occurred in their home countries or on the journey to Ireland, or in Ireland.
Ref: The Women's Health Council (2009) Translating pain into action: A study of gender-based violence and minority ethnic women in Ireland.

· The violence reported by refugee and asylum seeking women is different to that reported by the general population. A 2012 study found that 52% of all incidents reported by refugee and asylum seeking women involved more than one perpetrator; while 46% involved security forces, prisons or camps.
Ref: RCNI (2012) Asylum Seekers and Refugees surviving on hold. Sexual violence disclosed to Rape Crisis Centres

· Akidwa, the organisation for African and Migrant Women in Ireland, has called for a Yes vote in the referendum. Four migrant rights organisations in Ireland have also called for a yes vote: The Immigrant Council of Ireland; NASC; Doras Luimní; and The Irish Refugee Council.

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