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Lone women in Pakistan without family support may be at risk of persecution, rules tribunal


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Lone women in Pakistan without family support may be at risk of persecution, rules tribunal:

(1)    Save as herein set out, the existing country guidance in SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2004] UKIAT 00283 and in KA and Others (domestic violence – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2010] UKUT 216 (IAC) remains valid.

(2)    Where a risk of persecution or serious harm exists in her home area for a single woman or a female head of household, there may be an internal relocation option to one of Pakistan’s larger cities, depending on the family, social and educational situation of the woman in question.

(3)    It will not be normally be unduly harsh to expect a single woman or female head of household to relocate internally within Pakistan if she can access support from family members or a male guardian in the place of relocation.

(4)    It will not normally be unduly harsh for educated, better off, or older women to seek internal relocation to a city. It helps if a woman has qualifications enabling her to get well-paid employment and pay for accommodation and childcare if required.

(5)    Where a single woman, with or without children, is ostracised by family members and other sources of possible social support because she is in an irregular situation, internal relocation will be more difficult and whether it is unduly harsh will be a question of fact in each case.

(6)    A single woman or female head of household who has no male protector or social network may be able to use the state domestic violence shelters for a short time, but the focus of such shelters is on reconciling people with their family networks, and places are in short supply and time limited. Privately run shelters may be more flexible, providing longer term support while the woman regularises her social situation, but again, places are limited.

(7)    Domestic violence shelters are available for women at risk but where they are used by women with children, such shelters do not always allow older children to enter and stay with their mothers. The risk of temporary separation, and the proportionality of such separation, is likely to differ depending on the age and sex of a woman’s children: male children may be removed from their mothers at the age of 5 and placed in an orphanage or a madrasa until the family situation has been regularised (see KA and Others (domestic violence risk on return) Pakistan CG [2010] UKUT 216 (IAC)). Such temporary separation will not always be disproportionate or unduly harsh: that is a question of fact in each case.

(8)    Women in Pakistan are legally permitted to divorce their husbands and may institute divorce proceedings from the country of refuge, via a third party and with the help of lawyers in Pakistan, reducing the risk of family reprisals. A woman who does so and returns with a new partner or husband will have access to male protection and is unlikely, outside her home area, to be at risk of ostracism, still less of persecution or serious harm.

Source: SM (lone women – ostracism) (CG) [2016] UKUT 67 (IAC) (2 February 2016)

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Colin Yeo

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.