The Bill should guarantee advocacy and protection as well as access to the criminal justice protection
There should be a 'firewall' between public services and immigration controls.
The new Commissioner should be a Violence Against Women and Girls Commissioner
The Queen’s Speech in 2017 promised the Government would bring forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.
On 8 March 2018 the Government launched a consultation on the content of this Bill, which will close on 31 May 2018.
The EVAW Coalition has written a DRAFT response to this consultation which we are making available to help others write their submissions.
In addition we have published a special briefing on the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy which means many women are left without support and instead threatened with deportation. We are calling on the Government to put the safety and protection of women experiencing domestic and sexual violence before immigration enforcement.
Women Living in a Hostile Environment shows many women are so fearful of deportation that they do not report crimes of sexual and domestic violence to the police, or seek support to escape the abuse, despite being entitled to protection.
This is despite the Government’s stated aim of ratifying the Istanbul Convention on ending violence against women, which clearly states that all women should be protected from violence, regardless of their immigration status.
At a launch of our briefing hosted by Rupa Huq MP and Chaired by the BBC’s Samira Ahmed, women’s group outline a number of measures the Government must take to protect women for whom the hostile environment policy has been used as a weapon of abuse and control. Recommendations include:
Definition of Domestic Violence: The proposed DVA Bill will create a new statutory definition of domestic violence. This statutory definition must recognise that threats concerning women’s immigration status, and control of documents and application processes, can be part of domestic violence and abuse; and fear of their and their children’s deportation is a key barrier which stops migrant women being able to report and seek protection and justice.
Protection before enforcement: Public authorities, including Police, Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts should receive new specific instruction that they are required to always put protection of victims and pursuit of justice when a victim seeks it ahead of immigration enforcement. This is essential to fulfil Article 59 of the Istanbul Convention which this Bill seeks to ratify. New guidelines and training to be delivered across the public sector to ensure this; and steps should be taken to reassure the public that this is the priority.
Firewall to protect access to services: A ‘firewall’ must be created between critical public services and immigration control policies. All agencies, service providers and practitioners who come into contact with migrant women should put the safety and rights of women ahead of immigration enforcement and ensure that insecure immigration status does not bar women from protection and justice. Women should have access to secure and safe reporting mechanisms.
Extend the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession: Extend the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) to at least six months. Extend the DDVC to ALL survivors of gender-based violence, so that it is not limited to spouses and is not limited to narrowly defined domestic violence in a marital context. Make timely decisions on leave to remain cases where domestic violence or other forms of VAWG are a factor.
Protect and extend specialist services: Government to recognise urgent and already unlawful response to migrant women facing abuse and ensure sustainable funding for specialist BME by and for women’s support and advocacy services in every region, recognising they have highest levels of self referrals and established expertise in supporting and providing advocacy to migrant women. 6. Review future legislation All new immigration law AND procedures, including the upcoming Brexit Immigration Bill, to be reviewed before implementation for possible impacts on women experiencing VAWG.