PRESS RELEASE: Where is the protection for BME and migrant women?
Domestic Abuse Bill introduced to Parliament but where is the protection for BME and migrant women?
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.
Pragna Patel, director at Southall Black Sisters:
“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“.
Notes to Editors:
- Southall Black Sisters has been leading the campaign for equal protection for abused migrant women for over two decades. We have been in the forefront of campaigns and policy work that seek to ensure that migrant women suffering domestic abuse do not face the appalling ‘choice’ of staying in a violent relationship and risking their lives, or leaving and facing destitution, deportation and further exploitation. As a result of years of campaigning, we succeeded in introducing the Domestic Violence (DV) Rule in 2002 to allow women on spousal visas a route to apply for indefinite leave to remain if their relationship broke down due to domestic violence. See here
- The Destitution and Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) was introduced in 2012, following a further campaign by SBS to abolish the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition which trap many migrant women with insecure status in abusive relationships. The DDVC allows abused applicants who have arrived in the UK under spousal visas, the right to access limited state benefits and housing whilst their applications for indefinite leave to remain as victims of domestic violence are being considered. See here
- SBS’ latest briefing paper on the Domestic Abuse Bill can be found here. It includes our amendments calling for an extension of the DV Rule and the DDVC to all abused migrant women and for the introduction of a comprehensive strategy for abused migrant women
- The ‘Istanbul Convention’ refers to The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence 2011. The Istanbul Convention sets out a range of strong measures to prevent violence and protect women and girls from violence. The UK government signed the Istanbul Convention in 2012 and has committed to ratifying it following the Domestic Abuse Bill becoming law.