Yesterday (5 January 2021), peers debated the Domestic Abuse Bill at its Second Reading stage in the House of Lords.
As the bill made its way through Parliament in the last year, Refugee Council has supported groups such as Latin American Women Rights Service, part of the Step Up Migrant Women coalition, calling for legislation to ensure that all women, regardless of immigration status, are able to access life-saving services if they are survivors of domestic abuse.
Currently many migrant survivors, including those who have exited the asylum system, are unable to access domestic abuse support, despite the Minister Baroness William’s claim yesterday that ‘We are clear, first and foremost, that all victims of domestic abuse must be treated as victims first’.
A number of peers cited the concerns of Refugee Council and other organisations that support migrants in the UK, yet the Government continues to contend that there is not strong enough evidence about who is in need of support.
Instead, they are currently tendering for the £1.5 million Support for Migrant Victims (SMV) pilot, which will run for a year until March 2022.
Seb Klier, Parliamentary Manager at the Refugee Council, said:
“This response is disappointing for a number of reasons. The bill is a historic opportunity to ensure that all survivors are supported, and the pilot will only delay that opportunity.
It is also clear that there is a need – speak to any organisation working with migrants, and they will know of women who have not been able to access support, or who have been discouraged because of concerns that they will first be confronted by immigration services.
More fundamentally, though, this is not an issue that should be premised on the collection of evidence of need in any given time period, which could naturally fluctuate. Rather, Government should shape the law so that survivors with any kind of immigration status can access support; then the law is comprehensive and there to protect everyone, whenever they might need it.
During the next stages of the bill in the House of Lords, there will be opportunities for peers to table amendments. We will be supporting changes that seek to ensure all migrant survivors can access services, that those services are suitable for their particular needs, and that they can do so without fear of then being reported to immigration services.
It is that approach that will truly ensure that all people experiencing domestic abuse are treated as survivors first.”