COE expert group on violence against women and domestic violence publishes first report on Ireland

25 Nov 2023


On 14 November 2023, the Council of Europe (COE) Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) published its baseline report on Ireland.

GREVIO is an independent human rights monitoring body that monitors the implementation of the COE Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the “Istanbul Convention”). Ireland ratified the convention in March 2019.

This first report of its kind represents an evidence baseline on Ireland’s implementation of the Istanbul Convention and assesses legislation and practice in the areas covered by the convention. In the area of migration and asylum, the main requirement of the convention is to ensure that residence status laws and asylum procedures acknowledge and respond to the realities faced by women living in abusive relationships, subjected to sexual violence, exploitation or other forms of gender-based violence.  This article will outline the findings of the report relating to migration and international protection.

Progress since the ratification of the convention

Since the ratification of the convention, there have been notable developments in Ireland regarding Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) in the area of migration and international protection.

In February 2021, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEIDY) published a White Paper to end Direct Provision which outlined plan to establish a new system of accommodation and supports for protection applicants, including specialised accommodation for victims of DSGBV. In July 2021 a a report commissioned by the Department of Justice in consultation with DCEIDY, Domestic, sexual and gender based violence: An audit of structures, was published. The report states that the needs of migrant victims, are not provided for.

In June 2022, the third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (the DSGBV Strategy) was launched which takes an intersectional approach that aims to reduce barriers to services, information and protection for women subject to intersectional discrimination such as migrant women. In relation to international protection, the strategy aims to apply gender specific guidelines and a gender specific interpretation of the International Protection Act to ensure that gender is considered at each state of the international protection process.

In March 2023, the Department of Justice announced that a dedicated State agency would be created to oversee and support a whole of government focus to tackling gender based violence.

Challenges remaining and GREVIO recommendations

Tackling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The report found that some forms of violence against women, such as FGM receive less focus than others. GREVIO experts found that that FGM is only explicitly referred to in one of the planned actions in the new DSGBV strategy implementation plan (support services) and does not feature in any of the other pillars including awareness raising, training or education. Regarding this point, GREVIO urges that domestic legislation, policies and programmes comprehensively address all forms of violence against women including FGM and forced marriage, among others.

Systematic and comparable data on all forms of violence against women

The report notes that Ireland is significantly behind in the area of data collection on gender-based violence and some data shortcomings specific to the migration and asylum sector were also noted. The report highlights that there is no data on the grounds on which international protection applications are based or the number of decisions granting refugee status on the basis of gender related forms of persecution, and recommends this be put in place.

Accessing services, support and information

The report highlights that barriers continue to be encountered by women facing intersectional discrimination such as migrant women trying to access support services, information and protection. Similar challenges were also noted in an EMN Ireland report on the Integration of non-EU migrant women published last year.  For example, GREVIO notes when it comes to reporting crimes to An Garda Síochána, interpreters are not always available, which means migrant women may need to rely on others such as their children or partner to translate for them. Similarly, the report notes that international sign language interpreters may not be available to translate for migrant women with hearing or speech impediments.

Residence permits for victims of gender-based violence

Department of Justice Immigration Guidelines set out measures for migrant women whose residence status depends on a spouse or partner, so that they access an autonomous residence permit if needed. However, the report finds that many women are not aware of these routes. In addition, the Istanbul convention obliges that such measures are available for women victims of all forms of violence committed or condoned by their spouse or partner, however the Immigration Guidelines refers only to victims of domestic violence. When applying for an independent residence permit, victims of domestic violence must provide extensive evidence and if successful, a registration fee of €300 is applicable, which GREVIO notes could be a barrier to escaping violence for some migrant women.

Particular challenges arise for victims of violence dependent on the residence permit of a beneficiary of international protection, as the International Protection Act states that permission granted to a spouse or partner shall cease when the marriage or civil partnership ceases.  This is contradictory to the Immigration Guidelines and GREVIO considers that this shortcoming should be addressed.

A gender sensitive asylum procedure

The Istanbul Convention requires parties to ensure gender sensitive asylum procedures. While positive measures are outlined in the report, such as training on gender sensitive interpretation of persecution and interviewing techniques, some areas of concern were raised for improvement. For example, there are no International Protection Office (IPO) or International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT)-specific guidelines on the examination of gender related asylum applications. This is included in the third national DSGBV strategy as an issue to be addressed.

Other recommendations by GREVIO include:

  • Ensure that vulnerability screening is routinely undertaken at the earliest opportunity for all International Protection Applicants and provided to women and girls arriving from Ukraine under the Temporary Protection Directive.
  • Provide in-depth and specific training for professionals engaging with victims of DSGBV, for example judges and other court personnel.
  • Fund studies that address violence against women experiencing intersectional discrimination.
  • Ensure that victims of domestic violence who move out of Direct Provision do not lose their right to receive payments associated with their status.
  • Strengthen coordination between the DSGBV strategy and other equality and inclusion strategies such as the National Intercultural and Health Strategy (2018-2023).


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