A group of cross-party MPs – including Diane Abbot, Jess Phillips, Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Caroline Lucas, Dawn Butler and Harriet Harman – have written a letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid raising concerns that the current draft of the Domestic Abuse Bill “will fail to protect migrant women”.
In the letter, the MPs say that migrant women “find it virtually impossible to access protection from the police or doctors for fear they will be reported to the Home Office and detained or even deported” and “are falling through the gaps and further harmed by our current system that treats them as suspects rather than victims”. They urge the Home Secretary and the Government to “address the specific needs of migrant women” in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.
The letter comes alongside the publication of the Joint Parliamentary Committees report on the draft Bill today (14 June), which recommends the Government takes steps to ensure all survivors are protected without discrimination, including access to refuge and welfare and the creation of a firewall between support services and immigration control.
Amnesty International UK – which is campaigning alongside the Step Up Migrant Women coalition for better protections for migrant and BME women victims and survivors of domestic abuse – has welcomed the “timely” intervention.
Karla McLaren, Amnesty Internationals Government and Political Relations Manager, said:
“This is a timely and much needed intervention from a diverse and cross-party group of MPs, many of whom will have supported migrant women in their constituencies who are unable to access protection from abuse because of a system which discriminates against them.
“That system must change, and the government now has an opportunity to act. They must listen to migrant women themselves, to the MPs who signed this letter, and to the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee, who have also been clear.
“The Bill must provide equal protection for all survivors, no matter who they are or where they are from.”
Dear Home Secretary,
Domestic abuse affects 2 million people – mostly women – every year. As MPs, weve all met constituents whove experienced this violence. Weve heard their devastating stories, weve listened to their needs, and weve vowed to ensure their voices are heard in parliament.
Thats why were compelled to raise our concerns about the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which, as it currently stands, will fail to protect migrant women from this terrible violence.
We know from meeting people in our surgeries that some of the most vulnerable women experiencing or trying to escape domestic abuse are migrant women.
These women find it virtually impossible to access protection from the police or doctors for fear they will be reported to the Home Office and detained or even deported. These women are unable to find safety in a refuge bed because they have no recourse to public funds. These women are often blocked from securing their immigration status because of a dependence on their abusive partner.
These are the women who are falling through the gaps and further harmed by our current system that treats them as suspects rather than victims. They face a hopeless choice: homelessness, destitution, detention or deportation on the one hand, or returning home to a violent or abusive partner on the other.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our government to ensure all women are offered proper protection, and its the vehicle through which the Government hopes to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women.
But it will fail in these goals if neglects to address the specific needs of migrant women.
We support calls from across the BME, womens and human rights sectors for the Bill to guarantee adequate and equal protection for all survivors of domestic abuse. The Government must take this opportunity to listen to migrant women survivors and ensure the Bill leaves no woman behind.
Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Home Secretary, Labour Party
Jess Phillips MP, Chair of All Party Group on Domestic Abuse, Labour Party
Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, Conservative Party
Anna Soubry MP, Leader, ChangeUK
Carolyn Harris MP, Shadow Home Office Minister, Labour Party
Heidi Allen MP, Independent
Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Labour Party
Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Labour Party
Baroness Burt, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Liberal Democrat Party
Liz Saville-Roberts MP, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Plaid Cymru
Diana Johnson MP, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Labour Party
Alex Norris MP, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Labour Party
Tom Brake MP, Brexit and International Trade Spokesperson, Liberal Democrat Party
Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Party
Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party
Stella Creasy MP, Labour Party
Sarah Champion MP, Labour Party
Christine Jardine MP, Work and Pensions Spokesperson, Liberal Democrat Party
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Labour Party
Catherine West MP, Labour Party
Virendra Sharma MP, Labour Party
Kate Green MP, Labour Party