Report Sian Norris: Migrant women living in abusive relationships fear that reporting to the police could result in their data being shared by immigration enforcement, leaving them in dangerous homes.
The Government rejected plans to create an infrastructure that would allow victims of domestic abuse who are not insecure immigrants to report crimes to the police and avoid being reported to immigration enforcement.
This decision was made in response to a super-complaint by Southall Black Sisters and Liberty Charities. These charities support black and ethnic minorities women who have experienced gender-based violence. They also challenged the hostile environment that has made it difficult for women to report abuse.
The Latin American Womens Rights Service evidence showed that more than half the migrant women worried that they wouldn’t be believed by police because of their immigration status, and that the police would support their abusers over them.
The Government did promise to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who come forward, but both charities and the government disagreed.
Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner, expressed her regret at the decision and said in a Statement that she was very concerned” that the measures “will be inadequate when it comes to keeping migrant victims of domestic abuse safe from perpetrators and free from the risk of being deported for reporting their abuse.
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Safety not status
Domestic abuse victims of domestic violence are often unable to access support and justice.
Women on some types of visa have a ‘no recourse to public funds’ status, which means that they are not entitled to certain benefits such as housing benefit. The Government rejected an amendment to this effect in the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this year.
Women fleeing domestic abuse (including forced marriage) and so-called honor-based violence cannot access public funds.
As evidenced in Libertys and Southall Black Sisters super-complaint alongside a report by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, ‘Safety Not Status’Migrant women who are abused by their husbands or partners may be reluctant about reporting them, fearing that they might be deported to immigration enforcement. This is especially true for women with spousal visas and irregular immigration status.
I didnt report to the police because I feared being deported with my children, one woman told the report’s authors. I couldn’t bear the abuse, but I refused to go to the police.
Another woman who went to the police was confronted with barriers and a lack of understanding.
I reported the abuse of my child to the police, knowing that they could share my data with Home Office. The police did not properly investigate my case or take any meaningful steps to protect me. Instead, officers suggested I go back to my country of birth.
The hostile environment policy that was introduced by Theresa May, the former Home Secretary, has led to fear that domestic abuse will be reported to the police and immigration enforcement being informed. For example, women who have been raped were forced to visit sexual assault referral centres. ArrestAfter staff reported the victims, they were placed in a migration status.
The Home Office has made it clear that no immigration enforcement action against a victim will be taken while investigations and prosecution proceedings are ongoing and while the victim receives support and advice in order to apply for regularisation of their stay.
Landmark Domestic Abuse BillDoes Not Protect VulnerableMigrant Women
A form of abuse
Many victims of gender-based violence against migrants face threats about their immigration status.
This includes threats from abusers that ‘no recourse to public funds’ means that a woman will struggle to survive if she leaves a dangerous home, as one woman explained to the report’s authors.
I told him and his family that I wanted to leave, and they said that if I did, I would starve due to my immigration status. I have no rights in the UK. He kept throwing my cards. [visa]At me and telling me that I couldn’t get support. A persons ‘no recourse to public funds’ status is printed on the back of their visa.
Other abusers will tell women that they will deport them if they do not leave. Reports even suggest that abusers deny women access to their immigration paperwork, making them vulnerable if they decide to leave.
One woman stated that she didn’t realize he was manipulating me and using my immigration status until she started getting support [from a specialist service]. I had spoken to the police and my doctor, and no one ever questioned his behavior or thought it was wrong that my immigration papers were kept behind bars.
The Home Office Could have been rejectedThe firewall acknowledges that it is not appropriate to take immigration enforcement action against victims of crime who are vulnerable and that even the threat can be harmful to the victim.
It proposes to establish an Immigration Enforcement Migrant Victims Protocol to assist migrant victims of crime who have been referred by the police to immigration enforcement. It will also undertake a medium-term project to identify safeguards to reduce the deterrent effect of data-sharing. This protocol will be used to provide information and sign-posting to immigration enforcement to help migrant victims regularise their stay, and thus reduce the threat of being coerced or controlled by their perpetrators.
The Home Office’s proposed protocol gives migrant victims more transparency about how their data is shared and what steps are taken by immigration enforcement to engage victims before casework and enforcement decisions are made.
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