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UK: domestic abuse survivors urge MPs to protect all victims

The Domestic Abuse Committee will hear evidence from survivors today

Survivors from the Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Southall Black Sisters call for equal protections for migrant women who are often blocked from accessing vital support

‘When I fled abuse and sought support my immigration status was prioritised by the police over the domestic abuse’ – a survivor

Survivors of domestic abuse will urge MPs to create a fairer domestic abuse system that provides equal protection for migrant victims of violence, in a domestic abuse evidence session today (4 June).

Two of the survivors are migrant women and will tell the Domestic Abuse Committee of their experiences being blocked from vital support. They will urge the Committee to ensure that migrant and BAME women are offered equal protections in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.

Gill, a survivor and campaigner with the Step Up Migrant Women coalition, said:

“The Domestic Abuse Bill must include protection for migrant women since perpetrators are using this flawed system to continue exerting abuse with impunity.

“From my experience, I know that the lack of protections for migrant women within the Bill will enable this situation to continue. In my case, my immigration status was used by my perpetrators to exert abuse towards me and when I fled abuse and sought support my immigration status was prioritised by the police over the domestic abuse.

“This Bill is a great chance for the Government to guarantee safety for all survivors, regardless of our immigration status.”

Another survivor, Somiya, said:

“The Domestic Abuse Bill is a chance to set things right for migrant women. I have faced discrimination in the UK compared to other women, only because of my immigration status and the fact that I was not born here. My ex-husband has used these facts to isolate me from my children, and I am further denied the right to financially sustain myself, while my ex-husband prolongs the abuse through the British legal system. If nothing is done, there will be another generation of migrant women who continue to live in fear. I trust that this opportunity will not be wasted and that migrant women will be given the chance to live in dignity.”

The Latin American Women’s Rights Service - which is leading the Step Up Migrant Women campaign to ensure proper support for migrant and BAME victims of domestic abuse - and Southall Black Sisters will also give evidence at the session.

Gisela Valle, Director at Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), said:

“The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a fairer system that treats all survivors of domestic abuse equally, no matter where they’re from.

“Currently migrant women do not have access to public funds, meaning they are often blocked from accessing refuge beds and other vital services.

“We cannot have a system that offers one level of support to some victims, and another for others. All women deserve safety - the Government’s priority must be ensuring that everyone can escape abuse.”

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, said:

“For years, Southall Black Sisters has led a campaign to ensure the safety of abused migrant women with No Recourse to Public Funds. They are treated as second class human beings because of the operation of discriminatory and hostile immigration law and policies that deny them access to the welfare safety net and protection that is available to other abused women in society.

“Abused migrant women are relegated to a parallel and highly precarious system of support that is dependent on hand outs and charity. This is unacceptable at a time when globally the world is waking up to the horrors of racism and discrimination.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill has been described as ‘ground-breaking’ legislation and lauded as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to address domestic abuse in the UK but this will mean nothing if abused migrant women are excluded from the measures of protection contained in the Bill.

“The lives of abused migrant women matter. We urge the Government to use this opportunity to ensure that the protection of migrant women is placed on a statutory footing once and for all, in compliance with its human rights obligations to combat violence against all women and girls.”

Step Up Migrant Women

The Step Up Migrant Women (SUMWcoalition is led by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and includes than 50 BME specialist frontline services, migrant and human rights organisations, including Southall Black Sisters, Safety4Sisters Manchester, Imkaan, The Angelou Centre, Amnesty International UK, Liberty, Sisters For Change and the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

More information on the Domestic Abuse Bill and Step Up Migrant Women’s calls can be found here.

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