Vulnerable women failed by the system

This week saw the launch of Amnesty’s “No Recourse No Safety” report highlighting how the UK Government uses the status of “No Recourse to Public Funds” to deny support and protection to 600 vulnerable women every year. 

We launched the report at a seminar in the Scottish Parliament with speakers from Amnesty, Shakti Women’s Aid  and Hemat Gryffe.

Typically, for most of the meeting I was the only man in the room. A shame as it would be useful for more men to hear the stories which were used to highlight the problem of “no recourse”. Stories of women brought to this country and living a life no different to that of a slave, entirely in the power of their husband and partner. As is so often the case when one human being has power over another, abuse happens. One speaker spoke of “no recourse” cases coming to them “on a weekly basis”.  

The concept of “no recourse”, existing because of our Government’s all-consuming dread of all things relating to immigration, denies women the opportunity to seek help from services such as refuges if they have insecure immigration status. It was galling to hear examples of women being turned away, or even told to claim asylum, by workers who had no other options to offer. To leave any group facing a choice between a life of violence or destitution should not be happening in our society, let alone by the deliberate action of government. 

What was encouraging was the excellent turnout of MSPs, particularly from the Labour Party. Their commitment to taking action to turn this issue around was evident and there’s a real opportunity for them to make a difference, given that it is their party colleagues in Westminster who form the focus of the campaign. 

The Scottish Government’s, otherwise very good, National Strategy to tackle violence against women  does not reach these women. And while it would be useful to see some funding set aside to close this gap what we really need is a change of heart at Westminster so that women with uncertain immigration status enjoy the basic right to safe haven that the rest of us take for granted.  

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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