QUEEN’S SPEECH: DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL MUST SUPPORT MIGRANT SURVIVORS (Press release)

Thursday 19th December 2019

QUEEN’S SPEECH: DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL MUST SUPPORT MIGRANT SURVIVORS

The Government’s commitment to tackling domestic abuse must reflect that all survivors – including migrant survivors – are offered equal access to safety and support, the Step Up Migrant Women coalition has said, in response to today’s Queen’s speech.

The Step Up Migrant Women coalition – a coalition led by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service of more than 40 organisations –  is calling on the Government to ensure that legislation on domestic abuse includes proper protection for women with insecure immigration status, and leaves no woman behind.

The Domestic Abuse Bill presented to Parliament before the General Election failed to provide safe reporting systems to migrant women, who are often too fearful to go to the police for help because of the risk of being detained or deported, and to provide adequate ring-fenced grant funding for BME specialist frontline services, which are suffering devastating cuts and severe underfunding.   

“We welcome that the Government plans to continue to prioritise passing legislation on domestic abuse, but for this to be a truly gold-standard piece of legislation and to comply with the Istanbul Convention, it must leave no woman behind.

“Migrant survivors of domestic abuse are kept from receiving vital support – they’re too fearful to go to the police in case they’re reported to immigration enforcement, they’re blocked from accessing refuge beds, and they don’t have any way of accessing public funds which allow them to leave abusive relationships.

“If the current form of the Bill becomes law, migrant women will continue to be trapped between abusive relationships and a system that would rather deport or detain them than offer them help. They will continue to be overlooked and left behind by the law and police services.

“The Government has an opportunity to introduce a trailblazing piece of legislation that would change this. A new law must prioritise victim’s safety for all domestic abuse survivors as the number one priority.

Elizabeth Jiménez-Yáñez, Coordinator of the Step Up Migrant Women coalition and Policy and Communication Coordinator on VAWG at the Latin American Women’s Rights service, said:

We welcome that the Government plans to continue to prioritise passing legislation on domestic abuse, but for this to be a truly gold-standard piece of legislation and to comply with the Istanbul Convention, it must leave no woman behind.

Migrant survivors of domestic abuse are kept from receiving vital support – they’re too fearful to go to the police in case they’re reported to immigration enforcement, they’re blocked from accessing refuges, and they don’t have any way of accessing public funds which allow them to leave abusive relationships.

“The Government has an opportunity to introduce a trailblazing piece of legislation that would change this. A new law must prioritise victim’s safety for all domestic abuse survivors as the number one priority.”

Sandhya Sharma, Safety for Sisters said:

We demand that all women regardless of immigration status are protected within the Domestic Abuse Bill. Without access to safe reporting, refuge and justice, migrant women are left with no safety nets when leaving domestic abuse. The state must fulfill its human rights obligations to protect victims of abuse. Currently, the Bill offers no protection for migrant women.”

Andrea Simon, Head of Public Affairs at End Violence Against Women Coalition said:

Whilst we welcome the reintroduction of Domestic Abuse legislation in this parliament, we need to see a much-improved version of the Bill, which ensures that all victims of abuse can access protection and support equally. We previously saw a complete failure to address the barriers to reporting abuse to the police faced by migrant women, or to ensure adequate accommodation and other services for some of the most vulnerable survivors of abuse.

Women should never face a choice of destitution and homelessness or remaining with an abusive partner, and the Bill must clearly address this by embedding statutory duties on public authorities which mean that support is not denied to victims based on immigration status.  

Unless there is a commitment by this government to resourcing specialist support services for survivors and their children, and to ring fence funding for services run ‘by and for’ BME women, this Bill will fail women”

The Domestic Abuse Bill must protect migrant women

The Step Up Migrant Women coalition is campaigning and advocating for adequate protections for BME and migrant survivors of domestic abuse. The coalition’s analysis of the Bill and recommendations can be found here.

On 21 January, the Government published the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. On 14 June, a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee then published a report in response to the draft, making recommendations that the Government update the Bill to protect migrant women, in line with Step Up Migrant Women’s recommendations.  On 16 July, the Bill was laid in Parliament, without adequately incorporating tangible amendments concerning migrant women

Step Up Migrant Women’s key recommendations include:

Establishing safe-reporting mechanisms, including the creation of a ‘firewall’ to stop all victims of crime’s personal data being shared for immigration-enforcement purposes – so that domestic abuse survivors aren’t deterred from reporting crimes, or end up detained or deported when they do;

Extending the Domestic Violence Rule and Destitution Domestic Violence Concession so that all migrant survivors can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK and associated financial support, which must be provided for an adequate length of time to meet their needs;

Abolishing the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition for survivors, which prevents migrant women with insecure immigration status from accessing vital, often life-saving refuge accommodation and services when they flee abuse;

Adding a ‘non-discrimination’ clause to the Bill, which mirrors the language in Article 4(3) of the Istanbul Convention, to prevent discrimination against survivors on the basis of “migrant or refugee status… or any other status”.

ENDS

Contact:

Elizabeth Jiménez-Yáñez: elizabeth@lawrs.org.uk

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