Step Up Migrant Women responds to clauses to the Domestic Abuse Bill on data-sharing

The Domestic Abuse Bill is in its final stages before Royal Ascent. Last night at the House of Commons, Minister Victoria Atkins announced two new clauses to the Bill regarding safe reporting and data-sharing.

We welcome the clauses and are pleased to see some progress on ensuring migrant victims’ details are not shared with the Home Office for immigration control. We are grateful to Peers and MPs committed to providing migrant victims of domestic abuse safety. Special thanks to Baroness Molly Meacher and Jess Phillips for their excellent leadership.

Nevertheless, we are disappointed that MPs missed an opportunity to ensure the Bill provided an explicit statutory obligation preventing public authorities (and other support services) from sharing data with the Home Office for immigration control as the previous amendment passed aimed.

We are also dismayed by the negative from the Government to ensure all victims are protected by rejecting Southall Black Sister’s amendment to lift NRFP for the duration of the Support for Migrant Victims (SMV) Pilot Scheme. Without this provision, migrant victims will continue to fall through the cracks and turned away from life-saving provisions such as refuges.

We believe that the Domestic Abuse Bill will fail to be a landmark piece of legislation because it leaves one of the most vulnerable groups of victims of domestic abuse unprotected. Migrant victims will continue to be prevented from accessing safety and justice as they will be at serious risk of destitution and further abuse.

Government Amendments on data-sharing

The first clause (40D) Review of the processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes puts on a statutory footing the Home Office’s review is currently undertaking as part of the first super-complaint recommendations published last December.

The clause will allow MPs and Peers to scrutinise the review’s outcome as a copy of it must be lay before Parliament.

The second clause (40E) Code of practice establishes a statutory code of practice relating to data processing for immigration purposes. According to Minister Atkins, the Code will create a duty to, for instance, the police and immigration enforcement to follow the Code.

Both clauses can be read here.

Our Comments

Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes: Our primary consideration lays around the possibility of delaying for six months the publication and, therefore, scrutiny of the review.

Code of Practice: Our main concern with the Code is that it does not seem to have a clear purpose. Namely, it is not explicit that this Code must be, for instance, to enable survivors to receive assistance, protection in safety that they can without the fear of immigration control.

We believe the Code must be built with meaningful consultation with survivors and specialist ‘by and for’ organisations working with migrants victims of domestic abuse.

Despite the reassurance from Minister Atkins last night, we fear that the clause lacks a firm commitment from the Government to issue a Code that genuinely works to safeguard victims with insecure immigration status. Finally, we agree with Stuart C. McDonald MP:

“…the danger is that the amendments in lieu could lead to inaction and leave us no further forward.”

For furthe information, contact:

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

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