International Human Rights Day 2020

Migrant women survivors: information as the key to access safety and justice

“Now that I know my rights, my perpetrator cannot control me.


Survivor supported by LAWRS

Last year as part of our campaigning work with Step Up Migrant Women, we published the report “The Right to be Believed”. Findings of the research shed light upon the multiple and intersecting barriers to protection that migrant women face when reporting abuse to the police. We showed that lack of access to information and the perception of not being able to access support because of their immigration status prevent women from approaching the police and accessing justice.

In the UK, migrant women are subjected to various forms of violence and human rights violations that are compounded by institutional violence and the hostile environment. Further, government austerity cuts have impacted the outreach capacity of specialist services, resulting in difficulties to inform vulnerable migrant women about their rights. In contrast, this lack of information has allowed perpetrators to mislead women, threaten them with detention, deportation and separation from their children if fleeing the abuse. As a result, migrant women remain trapped in abusive relationships, fearful of any state intervention.

In the last years we have demonstrated the impossibility of women with insecure immigration status to report gender-based violence due to the fear of their data being shared with the Home Office. We have raised awareness about the way that prioritising immigration control over safety of victims represents a failure from the UK Government to comply with its national and international Human Rights obligations. For instance, those under the Human Rights Act, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Istanbul Convention, which the Government is aiming to ratify by enacting the Domestic Abuse Bill.

This year for the end of the 16 days of activism, we are launching a step by step guide for migrant women to know their rights when reporting abuse to the police. This toolkit also means to inform women about the availability of specialist ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised and migrant services to which they can access for advice and support. Our goal is for the toolkit to be available in different languages and accessible to women through our advocacy support and social media. 

In the context of the International Human Rights Day, we want to reassure women that police have a duty to protect and treat all victims of crime equally. This duty extends to the protection of their human rights and their right to live a life free of violence. All survivors should be able to report violence to the police safely and with the certainty that their case will be investigated, regardless of their immigration status. 

Thanks to our amazing volunteers Camilla Susini and Ana Pandal de la Peza for their invaluable support in designing and producing this toolkit and blog entry.

Design by Camilla Susini

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