The meeting brought together researchers, decision-makers, and NGOs to discuss the rationales and specificities of women’s migration across Europe. Attendees were welcomed by NOVA university representatives, Maria Cardeira da Silva and Sónia Vespeira de Almeida.
Paulo Pisco emphasised the importance of understanding the diversity of migration patterns and women migrants’ backgrounds, and the need to have them involved in migration policymaking. He stressed the need to change the negative narrative surrounding migrant women and show their resourcefulness:
“We have a lot to do about gender equality. Tackling the inequalities among migrant women is a very serious subject. When we talk about migrant women, we often talk about victims, but we need to change the narrative about migrants. We need to contradict that being a woman and a migrant means being vulnerable. It has an impact on integration, it is an obstacle to women’s integration. We need a positive narrative for the dynamics of our society”. Paulo Pisco
David Kerr highlighted that “
gender, gender identity, sex and sexual orientation shape every stage of a person’s experience as a migrant.” He explained that the European Commission has introduced new regulations to address gender-based violence and exploitation of women migrants and is funding projects to support the social and economic integration of women.
Out of the 7000 victims of trafficking to the EU, each year, women and girls make up 63 percent, 95 percent of whom are trafficked for sexual exploitation”, says David Kerr. The EU Commission introduced new regulations and proposed Member States to criminalize forced marriage and illegal adoption.
The Commission’s Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion runs until 2027, with 60 actions to be implemented throughout Member States: “the Commission is funding specific projects focussing on the social and economic integration of women.” He added that the war in Ukraine led to immediate responses with the implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive to offer immediate assistance to war refugees.
The situation in Ukraine was also discussed, as the Russian invasion and ensuing martial law has resulted in a gendered migration pattern, with women being forced to flee across Europe in large numbers. The meeting was dedicated to Igor Lyman and his wife, Victoria Konstantinova, who were able to attend with the support of the local organiser and WEMov.
Portuguese women outnumbered men migrants to Italy, and since the 1990s, women in-migrants have been more numerous than men, particularly in the Angolan and Brazilian communities. Forms of exploitation affecting women migrants were also discussed, trafficking being a gendered phenomenon that is affecting an increasing number of men in specific sectors such as rural labour. Local NGOs were represented by the Association of Cape Verdean Women in the Diaspora and the Men Non Association of Santomean Women in Portugal, which offered a fruitful perspective on women’s migration experience in Portugal.
Chairing the round table, David Kerr emphasised the importance of understanding and addressing the additional obstacles faced by migrant women and girls compared to men and boys:
“Migrant women and girls face additional obstacles to integration compared to migrant men and boys, often having to overcome structural barriers linked to their being both a migrant and female.”
Discussions also centred around the issue of deskilling – i.e. skilled migrants being offered unskilled jobs – and the need for a more harmonised system at EU level.
David Kerr concluded by highlighting this important topic and the impact of academic research on policymaking, which gives substance and depth to the work undertaken by COST Action WEMov.
“All policymakers – whether at the EU or national level, rely on you as academics and researchers to provide accurate data and the in-depth perspective that we can respond to. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your work on such an important topic and, I am convinced that policymakers within the EU institutions can continue to benefit from your insight for many years to come.” David Kerr
The meeting was a success in bringing attention to the experiences of women migrants and highlighting the need for a more inclusive approach to migration policies. Women on the Move will continue its efforts to bring visibility and recognition to women migrants and make them active contributors to the structuring of Europe.