The UK immigration status of people suffering domestic abuse is being used as a means of control and coercion, a new report has found. Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said that the term “immigration abuse” should be recognised in national guidance.
Domestic abuse sufferers, whose UK immigration status gives them no right to public funds, are reluctant to report abuse to the police for fear of their details being passed on to UK immigration authorities. Such fears are exploited by their abusers, many of whom tell their victims that they will be deported if they report abuse.
Ms Jacobs said: “Having spent over 20 years working on the front line, I have sat with victims and survivors and their children as they desperately seek a place of safety, only to be told that their UK immigration status means there is nowhere to go. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
Domestic Abuse Act
Earlier this year, the Domestic Abuse Act was passed by parliament, which Jacobs described as a ‘critical step forwards’. However, she explained that people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) because of their UK immigration status will be left out of this vital provision.
Jacobs urged the government to give local authorities £18.7 million over the next three years to assist those with NRPF with finding refuge. Meanwhile, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner called for a further £262.9 million to fund ‘specialist services’ including those for black and minority victims.
According to Jacobs, many migrant victims of domestic violence are forced to remain with their abusers or face destitution because of a lack of access to public funds. Meanwhile, she claimed that many perpetrators purposely destroy or withhold the immigration documents of their victims in order to use it as leverage.
Jacobs is demanding a firewall between agencies in order to give abuse victims an opportunity to come forward without fear of their details being passed on. She also reinforced her demand for the term ‘immigration abuse’ to be added to the national definition of domestic abuse and for it to be recognised in policy and guidance.
The report, Safety Before Status, features research conducted by the Angelou Centre and a review of Home Office evidence carried out by the University of Suffolk.
In the report, one domestic abuse survivor said: “I could barely tolerate the abuse, but couldn’t dare going to the police.”
Another survivor said: “I told him and his family I wanted to leave, and they told me if I did, I would starve because of my UK immigration status. That I have no rights in the UK. He kept throwing my card [UK visa] at me and telling me to read what it says at the back, that I can’t get support.”
According to a report published by LBC, one organisation said: “We have to tell women who have risked everything and their lives to seek help ‘I’m sorry but we can’t guarantee that your data won’t be shared or that you won’t be deported’. How can we expect any women who are at risk of death to come forward?”
“This is another reason why so many women remain in abuse,” the organisation said.
Ms Jacobs said that there are plans for further research to calculate the number of domestic abuse victims with NRPF, which is set to be published in 2022.
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