Today, the Domestic Abuse Bill returns to Parliament for its second reading, amidst calls from the Refugee Council and the #StepUpMigrantWomen coalition to ensure that every survivor of abuse receives the support they need, regardless of their immigration status.
In its current state, the Bill falls short of the requirements of the Istanbul Convention (a human rights treaty signed by the UK) in a number of key areas, with particularly dangerous consequences for migrant women, including women seeking asylum.
Our research shows that women seeking asylum, and newly-recognised refugees, face significant challenges in accessing the specialist support they need to recover from domestic abuse.
The Refugee Council calls on the government to:
- Ensure parity of esteem for all survivors, regardless of their immigration status.
- Replace ‘hostile environment’ reporting policies (which leave survivors too terrified to report abuse) with a ‘firewall’ between public services and immigration officials.
- Extend the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession to include women who are appeal rights exhausted.
- Guarantee sustainable funding for specialist domestic abuse services in every community, including specialist services for BME survivors.
- Fully comply with Article 3 (4) of the Istanbul Convention.
Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said:
“The Domestic Abuse Bill presents an opportunity to bring about real change to the lives of migrant survivors of abuse, but in its current form, it risks becoming a missed opportunity that will just perpetuate their suffering. Perpetrators of domestic abuse know that women with insecure immigration status fear disclosing abuse, and they use this vulnerability as a tool of coercive control.
The Joint Committee on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill highlighted a number of key areas where the Bill fails to meet the needs of migrant survivors, and it’s disappointing to see these concerns have not been listened to. It will certainly be a missed opportunity if this Bill provides life-saving support to some survivors, while leaving others at risk of destitution and further abuse. We stand with the #StepUpMigrantWomen coalition and call for a Bill that protects every survivor of abuse.”