Homelessness Among Migrant Women in the EU

Read the full report here.

As part of our 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign, FEANTSA have published a report on the experiences of migrant women facin homelessness in the EU. Migrant women are a particularly vulnerable group whose experiences of gender-based violence, homelessness and being a migrant are all very much intertwined. This paper aims to scratch beneath the surface of these interlinked experiences and raise awareness around non-EU migrant somen's experiences of homelessness, drawing attention to the lack of data and supportive legislation in place for this group.

The report considers three main aspects. Firstly, it examines the gendered nature of migrant women's experiences of homelessness. In general, the lack of access to housing and the issue of homelessness is mostly understood from the dominant perception of street homelessness as a male issue. One of the main factors that informs this perception is the more accentuated invisibility of homeless women as a result of their lower presence on the streets. Homelessness among women is more private and hidden, meaning that they are less present in the public space, because women often engage in coping strategies. They tend to rely more on informal support from their families or friends and seek alternative housing solutions. Hidden homelessness among migrant women contributes to the exclusion of migrant women living in homelessness from the policy arena, and therefore it becomes difficult to grasp and adequately address this issue.

The second aspect that the paper considers is how a person's migrant status informs their experience of homelessness. Migrants represent a significant percentage of the homeless people in Europe and they have a distinct profile from the non-migrant homeless population. A recurring theme that arises in the stories of those migrants who have experienced homelessness is the lack of regular and secure employment, often caused by discrimination in access to the labour market and lack of equal working conditions. Migrants often face a combination of specific barriers that lead them into a disadvantaged position, such as dependence on their permit of residence, prejudices and racism in a hostile environment or cultural and language barriers. As a result, their housing standards are lowered, and they may find themselves forced to choose between inadequate housing or rooflessness. 

Thirdly and most importantly, the analysis in this paper will consider the intersection of both gender and migration when looking at the factors that contribute to migrant women’s homelessness. We will explore which factors may push migrant women into homelessness and we will investigate the level of access they have to emergency assistance, such as night shelters. Having an irregular migration status poses a set of additional barriers for those women who are in a vulnerable situation. Being a victim of domestic violence or human trafficking and not knowing about their rights, the lack of established support systems or the lack of knowledge of the language of the country where they live are concerns that cannot be isolated. Migrant women with an irregular or dependent migration status often experience additional hardship when leaving domestic/intimate partner violence. It is therefore crucial to provide undocumented women with effective empowerment and exit strategies from abusive relationships, so that their migrant status does not determine their experiences.


For more information, please contact Simona Barbu.