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Immigration statuses are being used to control victims of domestic abuse

The immigration status of domestic abuse victims is being used as a means of control and coercion a new report has found.

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Domestic abuse victims’ immigration status used for coercion and control

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner is calling for the government to act as a new report has found that the immigration status of domestic abuse victims is being used to coerce and control them.

The Safety before Status report features research conducted by the Angelou Centre as well as a review of Home Office evidence carried out by the University of Suffolk. The report found that immigrants with no recourse to public funds are reluctant to report abuse to the police due to the fear of their immigration status being passed on to immigration authorities and that these fears are exploited by abusers who often threaten their victims with deportation.

Just one of the victims mentioned in the report said:

“I did not report to the police because I feared being deported with my children. I could barely tolerate the abuse, but couldn’t dare going to the police.”

The report also brought up issues surrounding victims not being able to access their immigration documents due to their abusers. The report states that many agencies determine this lack of documentation or knowledge about immigration status as evidence that a victim is undocumented and therefore not eligible for support, but this is not always the case. One victim said:

“I had spoken with social services, the police and my doctor and no one had ever questioned his behaviour or thought it was wrong that he kept my immigration papers locked away.

Safety before status

Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales is calling for the government to put domestic abuse victims’ safety ahead of their immigration status, she said:

“Victims and survivors with insecure immigration status are currently shut out of vital routes to safety and security. Without recourse to public funds, too many are unable to access life-saving refuge, if they are forced to flee their homes. A fear of their data being shared with immigration enforcement also prevents many victims and survivors from reporting abuse and reaching out for support from public services. In turn, this enables perpetrators to exploit victims’ and survivors’ insecure immigration status as a tool of coercive control – and to do so with impunity.”

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has laid out a number of recommendations for the government, just a few of which include:

  • As part of the Autumn Spending Review, £18.7m over three years should be distributed across local authorities to ensure that victims with NRPF can access accommodation and subsistence.
  • The introduction of a firewall between police, public services and immigration enforcement so that victims feel safe enough to report abuse.
  • The introduction of a working definition of Immigration Abuse in all domestic abuse and VAWG policy.

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The Domestic Abuse Bill

Earlier this year the Domestic Abuse Act was passed by parliament, whilst the Bill will serve to protect millions of domestic abuse victims, immigrants with No Recourse to Public Funds have been left out of the key protections and provisions provided by the Bill.

When the Bill was making its way through parliament in 2020 concerns about migrant victims being left out were raised and three amendments were proposed, they included:

  1. The extension of the DDVC to all victims with NRPF from 3 months to 6 months support
  2. The establishment of firewall between immigration enforcement and public services
  3. Establishing a non-discrimination clause in line with the Istanbul Convention

However, all three of these amendments were rejected by the government and the Bill was passed without them in April 2021.

Speaking about the Bill, Nicole Jacobs said:

“While the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act this year was a critical step forwards, victims and survivors with no recourse to public funds will be left out of this vital provision, and will not be able to access the safe accommodation and increased protection that the Act affords other victims and survivors. We must act now to ensure the barriers they face are addressed.”

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