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'Hostile environment' policy makes migrant women less safe and less able to escape domestic violence

Date of Publication: 
4 May 2018

Abusers scare women with insecure immigration status into not seeking help

'Hostile environment' policy makes migrant women less safe and less able to escape domestic violence

04 May 2018

End Violence Against Women (EVAW), a coalition of women's support and campaign groups, released a briefing this week detailing how women with an insecure immigration status are more vulnerable to abuse and less likely to access support, advocacy, and criminal justice measures.

The 4-page briefing, Women Living in a Hostile Environment, is here.

EVAW warns that the Government's "hostile environment" policy towards migrants is being used by abusive men to threaten and control women, trapping them in violent situations. Abusers scare women with an insecure immigration status into not seeking help.

The briefing says the hostile environment policy "exacerbates the fear and unwillingness of women subject to immigration control to disclose abuse, as women are forced to balance their need to access services such as a refuge or homeless shelter, the police, or a doctor against well-founded fear that their own or their family's residency status could be impacted or questioned as information provided to one of these institutions can be shared with the Home Office."

In addition, EVAW says the imposition of no recourse to public funds (NRPF) conditions have a devastating impact on migrant women who have suffered domestic abuse and are financially or otherwise dependent on their spouse or partner.

Migrant women with NRPF face significant barriers to accessing potentially life-saving refuge space, and it has been found that an average of only one refuge space per region in England is available for women with NRPF.

According to EVAW, measures introduced by the Government to assist abused women are too restrictive as they only apply to women who have entered the UK with spousal visas. Even women who are eligible for such support find the process difficult due to cuts to legal aid and the lack of specialist advocacy.

The briefing makes a number of recommendations and calls on the Government to ensure that its new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill brings forward measures to address the violence and injustice experienced by migrant women in the UK.

EVAW says it is essential that immigration policies are designed so they can't be used as a weapon by abusers or as an excuse by authorities not to help women or take action.

Rachel Krys, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "The public are rightly outraged by the devastating impact the hostile environment immigration policy has had on the lives of the Windrush Generation. The same policy is also leaving many women at risk of violence and exploitation, scaring them away from seeking help, and making it harder for them to access life-saving services. Abusive men often use control of immigration papers and what women can find out about their and their children's status, to threaten and control them.

"We have an obligation to help these women. It can't be right that they have come to the UK legally, as spouses of UK nationals for example, as refugees, or due to abuse and exploitation as trafficking victims in some cases, but are unable to get away from terrible abuse and violence because of their lack of citizenship. It is time the Government thought about these women as people in desperate need of help, and not as another number for an immigration target."