What the Eye Does Not See: A Critical Interpretive Synthesis of European Union Policies Addressing Sexual Violence in Vulnerable Migrants


Keygnaert, Ines, and Aurore Guieu. 2015. “What the Eye Does Not See: A Critical Interpretive Synthesis of European Union Policies Addressing Sexual Violence in Vulnerable Migrants.” Reproductive Health Matters 23 (46): 45–55. doi:10.1016/j.rhm.2015.11.002.

Authors: Ines Keygnaert, Aurore Guieu


In Europe, refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants are more vulnerable to sexual victimisation than European citizens. They face more challenges when seeking care. This literature review examines how legal and policy frameworks at national, European and international levels condition the prevention of and response to sexual violence affecting these vulnerable migrant communities living in the European Union (EU). Applying the Critical Interpretive Synthesis method, we reviewed 187 legal and policy documents and 80 peer-reviewed articles on migrant sexual health for elements on sexual violence and further analysed the 37 legal and 12 peer-reviewed articles among them that specifically focused on sexual violence in vulnerable migrants in the EU-27 States. Legal and policy documents dealing with sexual violence, particularly but not exclusively in vulnerable migrants, apply ‘tunnel vision’. They ignore: a) frequently occurring types of sexual violence, b) victimisation rates across genders and c) specific risk factors within the EU such as migrants’ legal status, gender orientation and living conditions. The current EU policy-making paradigm relegates sexual violence in vulnerable migrants as an ‘outsider’ and ‘female only’ issue while EU migration and asylum policies reinforce its invisibility. Effective response must be guided by participatory rights- and evidence-based policies and a public health approach, acknowledging the occurrence and multiplicity of sexual victimisation of vulnerable migrants of all genders within EU borders.

Keywords: sexual violence, asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented migrants, European Union




Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Sexual Violence Regions: Europe

Year: 2015

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