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EEA Women in Prison


Over the past decade there has been a significant increase in the numbers of European Economic Area (EEA) women in prison, with a substantial number coming from Eastern European countries. Statistics from some prisons now show that 40-50% of the foreign national prison population is made up of EEA women.   

Through the AIRE Centre’s advice line and legal casework, we have witnessed systematic violations of EU law by authorities and decision-makers. These include inappropriate threats to deportation; illegal refusal of early release and denial of benefit and housing assistance to which they are entitled. The growing demand for advice on these issues highlights a significant need for specialist legal advice in this area.

The EEA Women in Prison Project is funded to implement a focused initiative to address the specific needs of these women and their family members.

The EEA Women in Prison Project is generously funded by the Hadley Trust, the Pilgrim Trust, Evan Cornish and Comic Relief.


The project aims to identify the specific issues that cause common difficulty for EEA women in prison and develop a targeted strategy to reduce these problems in the longer term by raising awareness and providing specialist legal advice. We plan to collect detailed information on the proportion of women in the foreign national prison population in the UK and work with prison authorities and organisations to provide a sustainable support network and improve access to justice for EEA women in prison.


The project will:   

  • Provide EEA women in prison with free written legal advice and provide representation at domestic hearings and tribunals. 
  • Identify cases where policies of discrimination or institutional denial of rights emerge, and undertake strategic litigation at both the UK and European higher courts.
  • Implement initiatives to raise awareness of the difficulties experienced EEA women in prison and to improve their own understanding of and access to their rights and entitlements.
  • Conduct training with individuals and organisations that work with, or represent, detained EEA national women.


In order to achieve our aims, we will:

  • Provide detailed written legal advice in response to requests for assistance through our advice line, individual prison consultations and advice surgeries.
  • Continue to develop established links with front line organisations in order to improve understanding and facilitate access to the 13 women’s prisons across the country.
  • Through our outreach work, build a wider network of organisations who work with women in prison.
  • Provide representation in appropriate cases in domestic tribunals free of charge.
  • Provide direct advocacy for women in prison who have had their EU rights violated.
  • Take up test cases to challenge existing policies which discriminate or institutional rights denials to establish legal precedents which may be enforceable by other detained EEA nationals.
  • Where appropriate, take cases to the highest UK courts, relevant European level courts, the European Commission and the European Ombudsman.
  • Develop accessible materials and resources in relevant languages for EEA women in prison to help them gain understanding and access their rights independently.
  • Deliver bespoke training to those working directly with EEA women in prison to improve knowledge of EU law and the support mechanisms available.


The EEA Women in Prison project is coordinated by Emma Lough, Legal Project Manager, with the support of the Legal Project Officer, Audrey Cherryl Mogan.

Please follow us on Twitter @AIRECentre and keep any eye on this section of our website for updates on the project’s progress and future activities. To find out more about the project, please contact us at