Southall Black Sisters (SBS) is hugely disappointed that the government’s Domestic Abuse Bill to be introduced in Parliament today, has failed to include a proper infrastructure of support and protection for black and minority (BME) and migrant women.
In its Press Release, the government has proudly stated that its ‘landmark’ Bill follows a meeting hosted by the Prime Minister in Downing Street last week with domestic abuse survivors, frontline experts and charities, including Refuge, SafeLives and Women’s Aid. Disturbingly, leading black and minority (BME) women’s charities and survivors of abuse were not invited which might also explain the omission of meaningful protection for BME and migrant women.
We acknowledge the government’s stated commitment to reviewing statutory responses and support for migrant and asylum seeking victims of abuse, including access to refuges and specialist support, but remain concerned that the Bill does not address the realities and hardships that BME and migrant women face. The evidence is plain to see. At the same time that the Bill is being introduced, specialist BME refuges and services are facing closure due to commissioning cultures that favour generic providers and because the hostile immigration climate continue to offer migrant women only deportation or destitution by way of protection from abuse.
What is on offer is piecemeal and wholly inadequate. Despite stating otherwise, the government appears not to have listened to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which produced a report reminding the government that amongst other things, it needs to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Istanbul Convention on non-discrimination as to immigration status. The Committee also asked the government to consider introducing mechanisms for safe reporting by migrant women and to extending the Destitution and Domestic Violence Concession for destitute and abused migrant women with no recourse to public funds from the current three to at least six months. We see none of this reflected in the Bill or in recent government announcements
“The failure to include proper and meaningful protection for BME and migrant women in the Bill represents a huge set back. If the government is to comply not just with the spirit but also the letter of the Istanbul Convention, it needs to protect migrant women from violence and abuse irrespective of their immigration status. Without their inclusion, claims to be ‘shocked’ and ‘moved’ by survivors’ stories or to put ‘the needs of victims at the forefront’ are merely full of words, signifying nothing. We call on the government to do the right thing; to give proper consideration to the amendments we have put forward to protect abused BME and migrant women. This includes introducing a comprehensive Violence Against Women and Girls strategy that looks at all the intersectional barriers that prevent BME and migrant women with insecure status from accessing protection, justice and freedom“.
Southall Black Sisters