We hate to admit it, but we look at the world through gendered lenses. Women refugee and asylum seekers often deal with a triple disadvantage: immigration status, refugee status and gender.
As the coronavirus pandemic ravages economies and societies across Europe and beyond, we’ve seen the welfare of displaced migrants tumble even further down host countries’ list of priorities. Ironic, really, as now more than ever, we are relying on migrant workers to keep up even a semblance of an operational society.
Most language training policies for asylum seekers and refugees in Cyprus have been designed without taking gender into consideration. The issue with such policies is that to be gender neutral is to be gender blind — in other words, they fail to address the specific needs and realities of women, leading to unequal access to learning opportunities.
According to Eurostat’s records, Cyprus had the highest number of first-time asylum applicants in Europe (relative to population) during the second quarter of 2018. The number of asylum applications in the first eight months have exceeded 4,500, marking an increase of 55% from 2017. The growing needs of the increasing asylum seeking population continue to be insufficiently tackled by the state.
Today in Cyprus, a small European island nation of less than a million, 18,522 residence permits for foreign domestic workers are active, most of whom, as mentioned above, are female. Apart from these formal statistics, estimates say that the island hosts an additional 30,000 undocumented domestic workers.