01:58 GMT +321 July 2019
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    A troubled woman in a migrant camp

    Refugee Women Shut Themselves Away to Avoid Harassment in Sweden

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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
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    Last year's migrant crisis posed a plethora of problems for the Swedish welfare system and led to a rise in sexual assaults throughout the country. Accordingly, refugee women in accommodation centers are exceptionally exposed to violence, harassment and oppression.

    Many refugee women in Swedish accommodation centers feel insecure and have chosen to isolate themselves in their rooms to avoid harassment, discrimination and persecution at the hands of their fellow migrants, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported. Last year, Sweden took in a record 163,000 asylum-seekers, and some 100,000 are still living in reception centers due to bureaucratic problems. Of last year's asylum-seeker crop, women constitute only 30 percent and are consequently exposed to all forms of violence.

    According to SVT, women living in accommodation centers are particularly vulnerable. They are forced to lock themselves in their rooms to avoid unwanted flirting and pestering, making their plight akin to a self-imposed prison sentence.

    "For women, it is really hard," Ruhulah Meyhan, who resides at an accommodation center in Jämtland County, told SVT.

    At present, there are some 250 tenants at the accommodation center, and most of them men. Like many other refugee women, Meyhan's wife Farzana spends most of her time in her room. She does not dare go to the common dining room, choosing instead to retrieve the food and eat in her room. According to Farzana Meyhan, she had high hopes when she same to Sweden, as women in Afghanistan have few or no rights at all.

    "But when we came here, we realized that we were pretty limited here, too," Meyhan told SVT.

    By her own admission, she had bought a bike, but had to abandon the idea of cycling due to pressure from fellow asylum-seekers.

    "People started whispering around that an Afghan woman, who also happens to be a Hazara [a Persian-speaking minority in Afghanistan], took herself the liberty of cycling," Meyhan told SVT.

    According to Meyhan, her newfound freedom is mostly questioned by men. However, even her fellow refugee women talk behind her back and question her lifestyle decisions, as she goes to school in the morning.

    Maral Kesheshian, a trained Syrian doctor who works as a nurse at the local health center in Järpen, warned of dangerous psychological consequences of seclusion, as many women, above all unmarried and unaccompanied, are forced to lock themselves in their rooms and seldom come out.

    "We are getting big problems with depression," Kesheshian said. "Personally, I try to talk the women into taking a walk, so that they become a little happier," she said.

    Earlier this year, the Swedish TV program Kalla Fakta ("Cold Facts") reported that women, children, Christian minorities and members of the LGBT community are subjected to sexual harassment, discrimination and oppression in Swedish reception centers.

    "Somehow it feels as if Sweden abandoned women and children in this," Stephen Jerand, a police officer in Jämtland County, told SVT earlier this year.

    Despite mounting criticism, the Swedish Migration Board's Director General, Anders Danielsson, dismissed a proposal to offer separate accommodations for men and women earlier this year.

    "We do not live in a segregated society. We do not differentiate between ethnicities, nationalities or religions. There is no reason to do it, when it comes to people who arrive in Sweden," Danielsson was quoted as saying by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    Tags:
    migrant crisis, sexual abuse, women's rights, Sveriges Television, Scandinavia, Sweden
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