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Photograph: EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

The European Union needs to be vigilant and fight violence against women and girls among refugees coming to Europe, said Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Tuesday.

Jourova spoke to reporters in New York where she was attending the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, where the main theme this year is women's empowerment through sustainable development.

The commissioner said that with 80 per cent of migrants arriving in Europe last year being men, the EU needs to step up its fight against sexual and physical violence against women, especially within refugee camps.

"We must be very clear about the fact that in Europe, a woman is touched when she wants to be touched - this is not self-service," Jourova said.

However, she warned against imposing "the slightest hint of collective guilt," noting that the instances of violence against women are individual cases that need to be properly prosecuted.

Jourova stressed that integration was important to achieve gender equality among the migrants, including through promoting work opportunities for refugee women, who might not have been expected to be part of the labour force in their own cultures.

The commissioner said that violence against women is a pressing issue in the EU even without the influx of migrants.

According to the latest survey, one in three European women over the age of 15 has experienced physical or sexual violence; three in four women in professional jobs or managerial positions have been subjected to sexual harassment; and one in ten women has been harassed or stalked through digital technologies.

"I'm not proud of figures from Europe," Jourova said.

"We must openly admit that in spite of migration, we have a problem in Europe."

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