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Migrant women have the right to be believed too


study, ‘The Right to be Believed: Migrant women facing violence against women and girls in the ‘hostile immigration’ environment in London, LAWRS, Step Up Migrant Women coalition, VAWG, King's College London,Protection of migrant women victims of violence was established by the Human Rights Act 1998.

A research report produced by King’s College London, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), and the Step Up Migrant Women coalition was launched earlier this month at an event in London’s City Hall.

The study, ‘The Right to be Believed: Migrant women facing violence against women and girls in the ‘hostile immigration’ environment in London’, involved more than 60 women from 22 different countries with current or previous experiences of violence against women and girls and insecure immigration status, and 10 black and minority ethnic-specialist organisations based in London.

‘The Right to be Believed’ provides evidence on the incidence of violence against women and girls among migrant women with insecure status, as well as the barriers survivors’ experience when reporting to the police or seeking help.

Led by migrant and black and minority ethnic (BME) women, the project and surrounding campaign propose to increase awareness about the challenges faced by migrant women survivors of violence against women and girls when they seek help from statutory and voluntary organisations, and in doing so, to influence key decision-makers at London and national levels.

This in turn is to ensure that the rights of victims of violence against women and girls take precedence over immigration control and enforcement so victims are able to report violence safely and obtain support without fear of destitution, detention, deportation or all three.

It also aims to influence the legislative process of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, police forces and local authorities, and the main organisations working in the field so that they provide appropriate services and support to migrant women survivors of violence against women and girls.

Research for the report confirmed that gender-based violence experienced by migrant women is hugely diverse and experienced multiple times by manifold perpetrators.

All the women had experienced some form of violence, but psychological intimate partner violence within the home was the most commonly experienced, identified by 78 per cent of women.

The second most commonly experienced form in the home was physical violence perpetrated by intimate partners (among 68 per cent),

Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) suffering financial/economic abuse, and 46 per cent sexual violence.

Non-Intimate Partner Violence within the home was often associated with violence perpetrated by extended family members, relating to sexual harassment (14 per cent), so-called ‘honour-based’ violence (12 per cent) and rape (10 per cent), and 8 per cent experiencing gendered forms of trafficking and labour exploitation.

Key barriers to reporting crimes to the police experienced by migrant women were: their fear of not being believed because of insecure immigration status; their fear of the perpetrator, the fear of deportation; their fear of losing their children, a lack of information and language and cultural challenges.

Victims also suffered negative experiences when they did report abuse to the police, and faced additional barriers when trying to access protection and poor responses from agencies.

The research showed that nearly half of those who reported the abuse were denied support from the police: 45 per cent were denied support by the police when reporting, and over a third of them were not believed by the police.

Listings its key recommendations the report said the government should:

End all ‘hostile environment’ policies towards immigrants. Uphold human rights of people above immigration enforcement that is the universal right to access refuge and safety; the right to access healthcare, housing, specialist support and education without discrimination;

Put an end to data sharing between victims support services and the Home Office for immigration control purposes;

Ensure the government’s forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill fully complies with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention, including explicit recognition of the gendered nature of domestic abuse and its disproportionate impact on women, and ensuring the protection of all women without discrimination on any ground, including race, religion, nationality, migrant or refugee status;

Abolish the No Recourse to Public Funds Rule. Eligibility for migrant women’s access refuge and state support when fleeing violence should not be determined by someone having No Recourse to Public Funds status;

Extend the Domestic Violence rule and the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession to all migrant women;

Provide legal aid for victims fleeing domestic abuse who require immigration advice and assistance;

Include the voices and recommendations of migrant women survivors in consultations to inform policy and practice;

Deliver a sustainable funding model to support specialist violence against women and girls frontline services and refuges led by and for migrant and black and minority ethnic women, which provide a critical point of access for black and minority ethnic and migrant victims of violence and are central to delivering safety and protection but which have been decimated by funding cuts; and

Ring fence funding for specialist women organisations.

And statutory support agencies need to:

Establish safe reporting pathways for migrant victims to access support from the police and other statutory agencies, including employment rights enforcement bodies, ensuring victims of violence against women and girls and other crimes are able to come forward without fear of immigration control;

Provide clear guidance and training to the police, social services, and other agencies on their duty to prioritise protection of migrant women victims of violence over immigration enforcement, as established by the Human Rights Act 1998; and

Establish a ‘firewall’ to separate vital victim support services from immigration enforcement.

To read the full report, click here.

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