SUPPORT THE RIGHTS OF ALL WOMEN

WE ARE CALLING FOR THE DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL TO PROTECT ALL WOMEN – REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE, ETHNICITY, NATIONALITY OR IMMIGRATION STATUS
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Audre Lorde

Liberty, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Step Up Migrant Women coalition are working together to ensure that every survivor of domestic abuse is protected by the Domestic Abuse Bill – regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality or immigration status.

EVERY SURVIVOR MUST BE ABLE TO REPORT CRIMES WITHOUT FEAR, ACCESS SAFE ACCOMMODATION AND RECEIVE VITAL SUPPORT.

Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that impacts around two million adults a year, of whom roughly 1.3 million are women.

The Government committed to draft new legislation that would ‘transform’ the UK’s response to domestic abuse – but the draft Domestic Abuse Bill published in January 2019 is a wasted opportunity.

It does not:

  • Establish safe-reporting mechanisms, including the creation of a ‘firewall’ stopping people’s personal data being shared for immigration enforcement purposes, so that domestic abuse survivors aren’t too afraid to report crimes.
  • Abolish the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule, which prevents survivors with insecure immigration status from accessing vital, often life-saving refuge accommodation.
  • Extend the Domestic Violence Rule and Destitution Domestic Violence Concession so that all migrant women can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK and associated financial support.

So while migrant survivors of abuse face additional barriers to safety,  the Government has entirely left them out of proposed changes to the law.

This contravenes our domestic and international human rights obligations, and leaves thousands of survivors destitute, at risk of detention or deportation, or trapped in abusive relationships.

SURVIVORS LIVING IN A HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

The Government’s ‘hostile environment’ agenda has prioritised immigration enforcement over the need to provide safety and security to survivors of domestic abuse.

Invasive data-sharing agreements between trusted public services – including the police, health professionals and social services – and the Home Office prevent survivors from reporting crimes due to the real risk of detention or deportation.

Perpetrators of abuse also use these hostile environment measures to control victims – leaving survivors with a harrowing choice between detention, deportation and destitution or staying with their abuser.

We want this Bill to legislate for an impenetrable ‘firewall’ between vital public services and Immigration Enforcement, so that all survivors can report abuse without fear.

NO RECOURSE, NO SAFETY

People who are subject to the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule have no access to support from the state, including welfare benefits, public housing and asylum support. They also don’t have the right to work, to rent accommodation or to access free NHS healthcare – unless it is emergency treatment.

This situation is compounded for migrant survivors of domestic abuse as without access to housing support, they are routinely turned away from refuges. And without state support, many end up destitute and even street homeless.

This is a discriminatory, two-tier system of safety that violates survivors’ human rights.

To support all women – regardless of their immigration status – this Bill must abolish the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule for survivors of abuse, or at the very least delink this restriction from a woman’s eligibility for refuge accommodation.

RIGHT TO REMAIN

It is becoming increasingly difficult for survivors of abuse with insecure status to obtain a right to remain in the UK.

The Domestic Violence Rule (DV Rule) – an immigration application survivors can make to get indefinite leave to remain – is a crucial tool that enables women to establish an independent life away from abuse. And the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) vitally grants public funds to survivors making a DV Rule application.

But only survivors who arrived in the UK on a spousal visa are eligible to apply for both and the DDVC is limited to three months.

It is crucial that the DV Rule and DDVC are extended through this Bill, so that all migrant survivors can apply to remain in the UK and for state support.

And this support must be provided for at least six months, so women have time to find safety, become financially secure and start a new life away from violence.