Migrant victims of domestic abuse are among some of the most marginalised and vulnerable. The current Government policies are failing to provide protection and safeguarding. Data sharing between the police and the Home Office constitutes one of the most severe barriers to safety for migrant victims of domestic abuse. Therefore, we are concerned about the harm that several proposals within the Nationality and Borders Bill would cause. The Bill in its current form significantly undermines the Government’s commitment to addressing violence against women and girls (VAWG) and eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking.
In recent years there has been a sharp rise in domestic abuse; as such, the Government has reassured victims they are not alone and urged them to seek support from the police and other statutory services. This message was reinforced as the Covid-19 pandemic hit and lockdowns were imposed. However, law enforcement authorities have continued to put migrant victims’ safety last by data sharing, despite repeated warnings from organisations across the violence against women and girls sector.
Research by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) shows that 1 in 2 migrant victims with insecure immigration status do not report abuse to the police for fear of disbelief, destitution, detention and deportation. These fears are not unjustified but based on years of hostile immigration policies that prevent migrant victims from being safe. Perpetrators also often exploit women’s insecure status by telling them they will not be supported by the police and, instead, they’ll be at risk of detention or removal.
Amendment 140, however, ensures that the personal details of a victim of domestic abuse are processed to allow the victim to seek support and prevent those details from being shared for immigration control purposes. This amendment is vital to ensure migrant and refugee women can seek safety and assistance from statutory services, including the police, without fear of being detained or removed. A clear statutory duty of this kind will ensure a much-needed consistent practice, sending out a clear message to statutory services that support survivors should be at the centre of their response when a victim comes forward.