The Domestic Abuse Bill is set to have its third reading in the Commons today (06.07.20) where final amendments will be put to the vote before the Bill passes over to the Lords. A raft of amendments have been supported by the Women’s Sector to make sure this law is truly victim centred and delivers protection and support for all survivors of abuse, especially the most marginalised. New Clause 25 has been tabled by the Labour frontbench and sets out the need for equal access to protection in the Bill.
EVAW are clear that the Bill should establish non discrimination as a core principle so that victims of abuse are never denied support based on their immigration status.
On Friday (3.07.20) the Home Office published the findings of a review into Migrant Victims of Domestic Abuse. Disappointingly the review appears to be very limited in its findings and recommendations.
Andrea Simon, Head of Public Affairs says:
“It is with widespread frustration, that we find ourselves no further forward after the Review has been published. Despite many VAWG organisations providing evidence, recommendations and case studies to inform the Government, they have chosen not to include specific statutory measures to support migrant women in the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Whilst acknowledging the struggle migrant victims currently face in accessing life-saving support such as refuge provision (4 out of 5 migrant women will not gain access to refuge due to having no – recourse to public funds) the government have deferred action on support for these women. They have announced a pilot project to commence later this year, but this will still allow many migrant women to slip through gaps in protection, and does nothing to help survivors of abuse now.
It can’t be ok for the Bill to proceed, leaving some of the most vulnerable victims behind. We urge MPs to use their votes today to plug those gaps in support and stand up for equally effective protection for all victims of domestic abuse. ”
The Migrant Review considered three issues:
- Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) and DVILR: Indefinite leave to remain (settlement) as a victim of domestic abuse
- EEA Migrants
- Information Sharing
The Review spoke to multiple experts who were clear that current rules mean migrant women who leave abusive relationships are often not entitled to refuge spaces as they have No Recourse to Public Funds – leaving them at risk of destitution. And therefore, providing yet another barrier to them being able to escape abuse.
However, the review disappointingly states that there is more evidence needed before it can recommend an increase in the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession or the widening out of the rule that allows leave to remain to victims of domestic abuse. It references a ‘Support Migrant Victims’ pilot to be launched later this year which aims to support a number of migrant victims of domestic abuse who do not have access to public funds to access safe accommodation.
The Review also considered Information Sharing – the process by which the police share details of a victim’s immigration status with immigration enforcement. This creates a climate of fear around reporting, with survivors running the risk that they will fall foul of immigration authorities while trying to flee abuse. The Step Up Migrant Women campaign has called for this process to end and for a “firewall” to be implemented between agencies. Disappointingly the report cites the need to await the findings of an ongoing super-complaint against the Home Office and in progress Judicial Review before commenting on changes needed.
The government’s priority should be to ensure survivors are able to escape situations of abuse. In saying more evidence is needed the government is creating further unnecessary delay and ignores the proposed legislative changes to this Bill which have widespread, cross party support. These amendments would remove many of the barriers that victims face by ensuring recourse to public funds for all survivors, an end to the police unnecessarily sharing victims information with immigration enforcement, and a commitment to providing equally effective protection and support regardless of immigration status, in line with the Istanbul Convention.