A new report from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has today (9th November 2023) revealed that all police forces in England and Wales share migrant victims’ data with Immigration Enforcement; a practice which stops victims from reporting to the police or other statutory services out of fear that they will be treated as an offender themselves – facing potential criminalisation, detention and even removal from the UK.
The new data shows that between April 2020 and March 2023, every single police force across England and Wales referred victims of domestic abuse to Immigration Enforcement, meaning that there is nowhere that victims could safely report to police without fear of immigration action.
In this same three-year period, police made 537 immigration status enquiries to the NCCU – the primary point of contact within Immigration Enforcement for all UK Police Forces – for victims of domestic abuse.
The Step Up Migrant Women Coalition, led by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, has long been calling for action to address the fact that these policies trap migrant women and children in abuse, with abusers able to threaten women to stay silent as a result. As a result of the government’s ‘hostile environment’, survivors are also turned away from statutory and voluntary services when they seek help.
Many victims of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls face an impossible and unacceptable choice between staying with an abuser or facing harm at the hands of the state; allowing perpetrators to abuse with impunity.
All women deserve to live lives free from violence and abuse.
We stand with a broad coalition of migrant women’s organisations, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and countless others calling on the government to establish a firewall between all public services and the Home Office so that all women can report abuse and access justice and safety. An amendment will be tabled to the Victims and Prisoners Bill to address this problem.
Last year, the government finally ratified the Istanbul Convention, after a decade of campaigning by women’s groups including the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) – a big step towards improved support for survivors, more effective prosecution, and gender equality in the UK.
However, it chose to opt out of key support and protections, particularly for migrant women – meaning they will be denied life-saving support and protection. EVAW and 80 organisations wrote to the then Home Secretary, calling for the Convention to be ratified without reservations.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“All victims and survivors of abuse deserve equal access to protection and support. Migrant women should be able to rely on the police and other statutory services for help when they seek safety. But the government’s hostile environment policies, including sharing migrant victims’ data with immigration enforcement, is putting lives at risk.
This is not only unacceptable but completely undermines the government’s stated commitment to tackling violence against women and girls. We firmly support calls by the Step Up Migrant Women Campaign, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Southall Black Sisters, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and many others for the Victims and Prisoners Bill to introduce a firewall between the police, statutory services and immigration enforcement. The government has a duty to listen and ensure all women are protected and that no perpetrators can evade justice by weaponising immigration status as a way to silence victims.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org