The Domestic Abuse Bill fails to protect migrants
The current domestic abuse bill fails to protect migrants and instead puts their fate in the hands of their abusers. The government must fulfil its obligation to protect migrants by introducing amendments to these bills but before we delve into these it is important to understand how and why our system fails us.
The hostile environment
Under the watch of Theresa May as Home Secretary, the government introduced a new immigration system often referred to as the “hostile environment” which was specifically geared to making life for precarious migrants untenable.
Under this policy direction, the government introduced measures which barred migrants without secure right to remain from accessing public funds and forcing them to provide documentation when opening a bank account, seeking employment or even finding shelter.
There were further issues for migrants as it was revealed that the police shared information with the Home Office means that victims who came forwards would often become subject to enforced removal because of their insecure status. This has led to a climate of fear where crimes are not being reported.
This posed a particular issue for those who had come to the UK on a spousal visa as if the marriage broke down or they were subject to domestic abuse there was concern that if they spoke out their spouse could end the marriage and they would be dragged to a detention centre and then deported.
The destitute domestic violence concession within the domestic abuse bill in part aims to tackle this however, it does not go far enough as does not include all visa categories just spousal visas.
It is important to note that domestic abuse does not simply mean actual or threatened physical violence but could also constitute emotional abuse and economic abuse. This is sadly far too common with spousal visas where the couple has created a joint bank account only for the abusive partner to dominate the finance and assert restrictive controls. The government has added a clause specifying “economic abuse” but a review of how victims are able to pay existing fees is needed.
Matters are further exacerbated by the sky-high immigration application fees. Those who do not qualify for legal aid are often left with little recourse. An application for Indefinite Leave to Remain for victims of domestic violence can cost as much as £2,389.
First and foremost, it is important that a “firewall” creates between immigration authorities and public services such as hospitals and police to ensure that victims can come forwards without fear of deportation.
Secondly, the destitute domestic violence concession must be expanded to include all categories.
Finally, the government should ensure victims on temporary leave are granted a further 3-6 months enabling them to start their life anew.
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