European Union (EU) Member States have cultivated the 'securitization of migration', crafting a legal framework that prevents irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, from arriving in the EU. As external and internal border controls are reinvigorated to achieve this aim, the experiences of asylum seekers beyond the EU border, in designated 'transit' countries, necessitate further inquiry. Concepts of 'transit' are shaped by government accounts of 'secondary migration' as illegitimate, and asylum seekers as a security threat warranting containment. Based on interviews with Somali refugee women who have travelled through North Africa to reach the southern EU Member State of Malta, this article traces the impact of the securitization of migration on women's experiences of 'transit'. Women's stories, historically neglected in the literature on migration, provide a lived account of securitization and the gendered ways 'functional border sites' operate beyond the EU, enlisting state and non-state actors in producing direct and structural violence. This article argues EU policy is blind to the lived realities of those who seek refugee protection in the EU, and urgently needs to address the structural contradictions exacerbating violence experienced by refugee women in transit.