As a domestic abuse survivor, I know support for migrants would save lives

Apsana Begum
Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

The ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition imposed on those subject to immigration control means that migrant victims face an increased risk of abuse, with limited support services to turn to. This is why I support amendments to the domestic abuse bill that provide support regardless of immigration status.  

The minister has today announced £1.5m of funds to an immediate support programme targeted to migrant women. She mentioned data collection of this programme to inform potentially, a more sustainable programme in the future. 

What many migrant victims will be asking today is: should they come forward to receive help from the government funded programme? What kind of data about the support they receive will be collected? And is the risk of immigration enforcement and deportation the same, if not higher?

Furthermore, questions remain as to what assurances there are that this pilot will see migrant women’s experiences of abuse believed. Whether they will not be seen through a lens of suspicion, where many are seen to be exaggerating their experiences of abuse, and even accused of lying to receive indefinite leave to remain. These factors sit against the backdrop of an increasingly inaccessible and restrictive immigration system.

If we can recognise that abusers threaten to inform authorities and exploit fears of deportation, why can’t we recognise the fear that victims have in coming forward to seek help when perpetrators use such systems to perpetuate their control? 

The HMIC-RFS, College of Policing and the IOPC said only last year that police forces should restrict the sharing of information about vulnerable victims of crime, such as in cases of domestic abuse, with immigration enforcement.

The current system has been causing significant harm to the public. The government needs to address this now, because addressing this means recognising migrant victims for the victims that they are.

Today, it is positive that there is now a recognition that the harm caused by domestic abuse is far-reaching, and that in order for us to fight against it, there must be a coordinated response across a variety of government departments. 

I do welcome the government accepting amendments on areas such as the prohibition of charging for GP letters. But these concessions must be seen in the context of the government continuing to strip away provision after provision, benefit after benefit, community space after community space. Support for those in need continues to weaken.

I would like to pay tribute to the tireless work of those that have gone before me, battling with such bravery and determination to stand up against abuse and injustice, empowering people who too long have had no voice with support and rights.

People like myself. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I cannot overemphasise how quite literally life-changing and life-saving this support and solidarity can be. We can never stop our work in this area, until no-one ever has to go through what I have and what many of us continue to suffer.

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