Arhag & IKWRO: Safe Housing for Migrant & Refugee Women in London

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Arhag is working with our partner, IKWRO (Women's Rights Organisation), to offer safe and affordable housing to migrant and refugee women in London.

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Arhag, in collaboration with one of our partner organisations, IKWRO (Women’s Rights Organisation), is making progress in providing safe and affordable housing options for migrant and refugee women in London. This partnership focuses on addressing the challenges Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan women face.

Migrant and refugee women often find themselves in vulnerable situations, whether it be as a victim of gender discrimination, domestic violence, forced marriages, or relocating to a new country with no support network. Access to stable social housing is fundamental, providing security and the necessary foundation to rebuild their lives.

However, securing safe and adequate social housing is often far from straightforward. Some women face ’No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) due to their visa status, while others may struggle to find accommodation that caters to their specific needs. Language barriers and limited knowledge of the housing system within the country they are seeking asylum in can also present difficulties for women when communicating their housing needs.

To understand in more depth the challenges women face when seeking refuge, we would like to share Ms. C’s journey to living in a secure home. Originally from Bangladesh, Ms. C arrived in the UK on a ‘Spouse Visa’ in 2006. For 16 years, she endured isolation as she was confined to her home by demand of her husband and in-laws. She was denied the opportunity to learn English or pursue education. Ms. C’s freedom was limited to taking care of household chores and her children.

Ms. C didn't have access to important documents like her passport or her children's birth certificates. She also didn't have a bank account and couldn't spend any money for herself or her children. Her husband and in-laws threatened to send her back to Bangladesh, away from her children.

Ms. C found the courage to speak to a teacher working at her youngest daughter's school, asking for help and support. The school got in touch with IKWRO. IKWRO could only talk to Ms C when she came to pick up her daughter from school, but it was a crucial step in helping change her situation.

With the help of IKWRO, Ms. C found her voice. IKWRO were able to provide Ms. C with crucial information about her rights, swiftly conducted a risk assessment, and developed a safety plan. IKWRO knew that securing refuge would prove challenging due to her lack of paperwork or identification.

A coordinated effort involving IKWRO, the police, and social services led to her safe exit from the abusive environment. She, and her children, were placed in temporary accommodation, providing much-needed safety and stability.

As well as providing advice, advocacy and emotional support services, IKWRO has dealt with referrals to housing associations and local authorities. Arhag's partnership with IKWRO forms part of a broader network that includes organisations like RAMFEL, Doctors of the World, Migrantwork CIC, and Migrants Right Network.

IKWRO is an Arhag partner based at The People’s Place in Stratford. One of the key recommendations set out in the Better Social Housing Review last year was the development of proactive community hubs that foster collaboration between multiple agencies. We believe The People’s Place, which has the purpose of providing services such as housing advice and support, immigration advice, counselling and support for women, and research and advocacy, enables us to stay local, approachable, and equipped with the expertise necessary to serve our residents and the wider community as best as we can.

Arhag's commitment to empowering women facing social discrimination clearly complements IKWRO's mission. Together, we provide not only accommodation but also immigration support and access to critical services. Providing adequate social housing is one critical way that we can work to protect women who may otherwise have been in a vulnerable situation.

The purpose of the collaboration between Arhag and IKWRO is to bring attention to the issues faced by migrant and refugee women in London and provide them with a visible window of support.

For more information about IKWRO's services, please visit IKWRO's Website