Human rights groups have criticised the UK government for failing to ensure that migrant survivors of domestic abuse are “adequately protected” by its Domestic Abuse Bill.
Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) — a coalition of more than 30 organisations — condemned the government’s response to a Home Affairs select committee report on the upcoming bill, published on Thursday (May 9).
The coalition, including Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and Amnesty International UK, warned that the government had missed an opportunity to strengthen protections for migrant women in its plans for domestic abuse law.
Migrant Women Blocked From “Life-Saving Services”
Image credit: Laura Dodsworth
In a joint statement, SUMW raised concerns that the government has not responded to recommendations to ensure migrant women domestic abuse survivors can access support regardless of their immigration status.
The SUMW said that thousands of women will remain blocked from accessing “potentially life-saving services,” which it said puts them at risk of being detained or deported.
It also argued that the government has not responded to concerns over the decrease in services for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) victims of domestic abuse.
Earlier this year, research by the charity Safe Lives found that BAME victims of domestic abuse, particularly migrant women, are trapped in abusive relationships one and a half times longer than white-British women.
The government has previously outlined is intentions for the bill to ensure that the UK meets the requirements of the Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent and combat all violence against women.
Chiara Capraro, Amnesty International UK’s women rights programme manager, said: “The Home Affairs Select Committee was clear in its concern that the draft Domestic Abuse Bill falls short on the requirements of the Istanbul Convention which requires the protection of all women survivors of violence regardless of immigration status.
“The bill will only meet the requirements of the convention if it enables women to report violence without fear of deportation or detention, access life-saving emergency protection and provide adequate funding to specialist BAME services.
“The government must listen to migrant survivors if it is serious about leaving no woman behind.”
Domestic Abuse Bill Will “Fail” If It Does Not Protect Migrant Women
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SUMW went on to condemn the government for failing to address recommendations to prevent police from sharing victims’ data with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.
The Government must listen to migrant survivors if it is serious about leaving no woman behind.
Chiara Capraro, Amnesty International UK’s women rights programme manager
“Listen to the sector, listen to the Parliamentary Committees – ensure migrant women can report safely and access the public funds they need to escape abuse, and this legislation will be vastly improved,” said Illary Valenzuela Oblitas, policy and communications co-ordinator at LAWRS.
“Without these changes, it will fail.”
The Home Office has been approached for comment.
In January, the government published its draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which will seek to pursue offenders and protects survivors of domestic abuse and their families.
According to the BBC, councils in England will have a legal duty to provide secure housing for survivors of domestic abuse as part of the bill.
More than 20,000 referrals to refuges in England were refused in the year 2017/18 — an average of 400 each week — according to Women’s Aid.
Scope Of The Bill And Next Steps
The Domestic Abuse Bill will introduce a statutory government definition of domestic abuse for the first time, which will specifically include manipulative non-physical abuse and economic abuse.
It will also set up a Domestic Abuse Commissioner and stop abusers from cross-examining their victims in family courts.
On Tuesday (May 14), human rights campaigners will debate the bill during a session in Parliament.
Representatives from groups including Liberty, Women for Refugee Women and Sisters for Change are set to speak at the meeting.
Main image credit: Laura Dodsworth