13th December, 2023
Rt Hon James Cleverly MP,
We are writing to you regarding the 5-point plan announced on the 4th December to curb net immigration.
As frontline and campaigning organisations and academics that support victim-survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG), notably Black, minority, and migrant women, we are alarmed by this statement of intent. Speaking from our experience in providing support, we are extremely concerned that these new requirements will have a disastrous impact on victim-survivors with insecure immigration status, increasing their vulnerability and reducing their ability to escape abusive relationships.
For decades, by and for organisations have highlighted how changes to the immigration system have been exploited by perpetrators to harm migrant women and children. The Step Up Migrant Women campaign, for instance, has demonstrated how abusers threaten migrant women with deportation, detention, and separation from their children if they seek help. By and for organisations have also consistently highlighted how immigration restrictions prevent migrant women in urgent need of support from accessing life-saving provisions particularly those subject to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition. Hostile immigration policies along with denied access to housing and welfare benefits result in victim-survivors being turned away from refuges and statutory support provisions, rendering them unable to leave their abusers.
While the government is funding the Southall Black Sisters (SBS) administered Support for Migrant Victims pilot scheme (£1.4 million per year) which pays for 12 weeks of rent and subsistence costs for migrant victims of domestic abuse regardless of immigration status, we have repeatedly highlighted that this is insufficient. An independent evaluation of the pilot’s first year, commissioned by SBS, concluded that the fund alone is insufficient, and that long-term support provisions, such as extending the Domestic Violence Indefinite Leave to Remain (DVILR) and Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) to all victims regardless of immigration status, and lifting the NRPF condition, are required.
We are concerned that these measures, along with the continued lack of long-term, sustainable support provisions would result in more migrant victims with insecure immigration losing their status and becoming undocumented. We are especially concerned about the misuse of these measures by perpetrators, who regularly weaponise draconian immigration regulations and the lack of safe reporting procedures to harm migrant victims.
In addition, we are also concerned that these policies will make it more difficult for us to attract and retain valued staff members. At a time when the VAWG sector is struggling to recruit and retain staff, this is especially pertinent for by and for services working with Black, minoritised and migrant women whose staff members provide the unique cultural competence required to support members of the community, as a result of their lived experience with the immigration system. These measures will adversely affect by and for organisations’ capacity to provide specialist support to vulnerable black minoritised and migrant women.
These policies, as well as the broader language of fearmongering about immigration numbers, exacerbate the villainization of immigrants, which is disastrous for migrant victim-survivors fleeing abuse. We urge you and the government to reconsider these measures immediately and seriously consider extending the DDVC and DVILR, instituting a firewall on data-sharing between statutory agencies and immigration enforcement, and exploring evidence-based, human-rights-centred immigration policies.