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London mayor says support victims of abuse

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 insecure immigration status, help victims of crime, domestic abuse, letter, Claire Waxman, Sadiq Khan, Give abuse victims the confidence to report crime and their abusers no matter what their status.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and London’s Victims’ Commissioner, Claire Waxman, have called on the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to urgently act to protect victims of crime who have insecure immigration status.

Work carried out by Claire Waxman, London’s first Victims’ Commissioner, has highlighted cases of victims of domestic abuse, for example, who are too frightened to report crimes and forced to remain in abusive relationships because of their immigration status – they may be on spousal visas, or being lead to believe by their abuser that they could be detained, imprisoned or sent away.

This results in the government’s hostile environment policies leading to vulnerable people being denied access to much-needed help and support, and facing significant risk of being unlawfully detained.

Waxman has been working closely with women and girls directly affected by domestic abuse who have experienced barriers to support as a result of their immigration status.

There is also the issue of the cost of applying for the right to remain under the domestic violence rule which has nearly tripled since 2014 from £1,093 to £2,997 in 2018, plus an additional £2,997 for each dependent child.

Both Waxman and Khan are clear that the government needs to take action now to support the victims of abuse, and Sadiq Khan has written to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying as much.

They have called for:

The reinstatement of legal aid for immigration cases to ensure those with insecure status can access independent advice and support;

Victims of violence to be entitled to financial support and safe accommodation in order to leave an abusive relationship, irrespective of their immigrations status; and

Operational guidelines on how to respond to victims with insecure immigration status, including prioritising safety and support over immigration offences.

In her first year as London’s Victims’ Commissioner, as part of her ongoing commitment to ensure victims of abuse are ‘at the heart of the criminal justice system’, that victims do not fear reporting crimes and that all victims can access the support and services they need, Claire Waxman gathered evidence by speaking to those who have been affected.

In one case, a woman who arrived in the UK on a spousal visa shortly afterwards began experiencing domestic violence; her husband reportedly controlled all the money, inflicted violence on her regularly and kept one of their twin babies at home when she was allowed out to ensure she would not flee.

He also told her that if she phoned the police she would be arrested and deported because she was ‘an illegal immigrant’ and could only stay in the UK as long as she was married to him, and that the courts would award the children to him because she had no money and could not speak English.

And then, when she did eventually summon up the courage to contact the police, they confirmed her fears, telling her she had no rights – and she became the offender in an immigration case and not the victim in a domestic abuse case.

This case, Waxman said, was not an isolated one – and a number of migrant women never report episodes of violence in London because they fear deportation.

In light of incidents like this, the Metropolitan Police Service agreed to work with her to improve how cases are handled, for example by introducing a set of guidelines and principles on how to respond to victims with insecure immigration status for all immigration officials.

Waxman has also led an in-depth consultation with survivors of violence against women and girls, resulting in a review into rape cases in London to identify where cases are delayed or abandoned.

This has in turn led to her lobbying the government for the improved handling of sensitive data during the disclosure practice so that the victim’s right to privacy is both considered and upheld during the judicial process.

She has also added her voice to calls being made by women’s, legal and victims groups for the government to ban the cross examination of victims by their abusers in family and civil courts.

“I have met far too many victims trapped in violent and oppressive relationships who feel they have no way out because they can’t safely access support due to fears of being detained or deported,” Waxman said.

“Both the Mayor and I are clear that all victims of abuse must have full confidence to report crime and their abusers to ensure justice is done, no matter what their status might be.”

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