Britain is turning away hundreds of rape victims who have fled their countries in search of asylum, researchers said on Monday.
A shocking new study by Women For Refugee Women suggests that almost half of women seeking asylum in Britain have been raped in their home countries. Most of them have their applications rejected.
Three-quarters of those who were told to go back home said officials hadn't believed them, suggesting a "culture of disbelief."
Of these women, two in three were left destitute and more than half had thought about killing themselves.
The research, carried out in London, Manchester, Bradford, Cardiff, Stoke-on-Trent, Newport and Glasgow, found that most of the 70 women quizzed had experienced serious human rights abuses, including rape, imprisonment, violence from soldiers or police, forced marriage and forced prostitution.
Women For Refugee Women director Natasha Walter said: "These findings suggest that every year hundreds of women who have survived rape and abuse are refused asylum and experience destitution, detention and despair in this country.
"We are asking the government to note the growing concern about this issue and reform the asylum process to make it more responsive to women's needs."
The charity's report - Refused: the experiences of women denied asylum in the UK - described the effects of destitution on the women as particularly striking.
Philippe Sands QC, law professor at University College London, said: "This report paints a shameful picture about asylum practices and the treatment of women seeking refuge in the UK from serious human rights abuses and persecution.
"It should be read and re-read and then used to press for immediate and far-reaching changes to restore this country's role in promoting the rule of law and protecting those who are vulnerable and threatened."
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "We recognise that women may face particular forms of persecution which is why we have female interviewers and interpreters for women applicants.
"We treat all asylum applicants with sensitivity and work with Asylum Aid and the Refugee Council to ensure the process is first-rate."
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