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Migrant victims of domestic abuse failed by government, says Domestic Abuse Commissioner

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has criticised government failure to offer safe reporting mechanisms for migrant victims of domestic abuse.

Victims' safety must be put ahead of their immigration status, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has said, as she criticised the Government's decision not to create a firewall which would have allowed survivors to safely report domestic abuse without fear of deportation.  

Nicole Jacobs added:

"I am extremely disappointed with today's decision [following a super complaint submitted against both the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and the Home Office by Liberty and charity Southall Black Sisters in December 2018] and very concerned that the measures put forward today will be inadequate when it comes to keeping migrant victims of domestic abuse safe from perpetrators and free from the risk of being deported for reporting their abuse." 

The complaint concerned the sharing of victim and witness data to the Home Office by the police for immigration enforcement purposes and a perceived culture of police prioritising immigration enforcement over safeguarding and the investigation of crime. 

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner – along with many specialist domestic abuse services – had been working closely with the Home Office as they conducted their review following the super complaint.  

She said it was her conclusion (and that of those working within the domestic abuse sector) that a firewall would be necessary to enable victims and survivors of domestic abuse with insecure immigration status to safely report domestic abuse.  

"The measures outlined in the protocol today do not go far enough to address the fear that information will be shared with immigration enforcement, which prevents many victims and survivors from reporting domestic abuse – as set out so clearly in the report by HMICFRS last year," she added. 

The report does say that no immigration enforcement action will be taken against that victim while investigation and prosecution proceedings are ongoing and the victim is receiving support and advice to make an application to regularise their stay. The Domestic Abuse Commissioner's office will work hard to ensure the protocol meets this commitment.  

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner did welcome the commitment by the Home Office to offer support to any migrant victim who comes forward to report police and said she would work closely with the Government to ensure that this was properly funded in order to provide the support that was needed.  

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has called on Government to provide £18.7m over a three-year period for migrant survivors with no recourse to public funds and for further £262.9m over three years for a dedicated funding pot for specialist 'by and for' services including services for Black and minoritized victims which would go a long way in providing this support'.   

This decision comes at a time,  the Domestic Abuse Commissioner noted, when migrant survivors of domestic abuse have extremely limited options. Without recourse to public funds, too many are forced to either stay with their abuser or?face homelessness and destitution when they flee domestic abuse.  

The Commissioner said:

"Without sufficient funding for appropriate advice and support to help migrant victims and survivors understand their rights and entitlements and escape domestic abuse, they will not be able to overcome the fear of reporting domestic abuse, which is perpetuated by perpetrators. 

"We urgently need to see Home Office develop a strong support package so that victims and survivors of domestic abuse can access the accommodation, support and legal advice they so desperately need."

For the full response of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and comment by Southall Black Sisters, click here. For the report by the Home Office, click here.