Sexual and gender-based violence

Strengthening protection for migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women

What is sexual and gender-based violence?

In 2017, women made up almost half of all migrants arriving in Europe.

At the same time, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is the most widespread global human rights violation. This means that women and girls on the move are more exposed to sexual exploitation, discrimination and abuse more than their male counterparts, especially when they are travelling alone.

Gender-based violence includes sexual violence and exploitation, forced and child marriage, FGM, so called ‘honour’ based violence and intimate partner violence. It can be physical, psychological, sexual, emotional and material.

About the SWIM project

Logo for the SWIM - Safe women in migration - project, which shows a drawing of the outline of a woman's face and includes the name of the project.SWIM is a two-year European Commission funded project that has brought together seven organisations from five European countries. It strengthens protection for refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant women and girls who have suffered or are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence in Europe.

As proud partner of SWIM, the British Red Cross has worked to strengthen protections for refugee, asylum-seeking, and migrant women and girls who have suffered or are at risk of SGBV. We work to:

  • build capacity of front line professionals to recognise and respond through providing specialist training and resources  
  • raise awareness among refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women and girls of their rights to protection and access to justice
  • advocate at local and national level to strengthen protection mechanisms and address barriers to safety. 

You can download the SWIM project resources below.

Sexual and gender-based violence and the asylum process

Sexual and gender-based violence occurs during all stages of migration: prior to fleeing the home country, during the journey and in camps or other places where people may stay, including in the UK. 

  • Sexual violence is often not disclosed or not believed as part of the asylum decision-making process. 
  • Refused asylum seekers are more at risk of sexual violence and exploitation. 
  • Perpetrators use insecure immigration status as a method of control. 
  • People at risk need knowledge of their rights and routes to support.
  • Prevention work must engage men and boys, and address gender inequalities. 


The Red Cross' role in the SWIM project

As part of the project, we: 

  • deliver training on recognising and responding to SGBV 
  • develop operational guidance for working with migrant women at risk of SGBV 
  • design and run gender-sensitive workshops on rights and routes to support for migrant women across the UK.
  • support our teams to provide help that is gender sensitive and understands that women and girls may have faced trauma as a result of violence 
  • work to reduce risk though mainstreaming gender and SGBV prevention.  

For more information please contact

Ellie Shepherd:

Virginia Dellavalle:


The project has been generously supported by the European Commission.

The flag of the European Union (EU).