Under Covid-19, reportings of domestic abuse have skyrocketed. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, has reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day[1]. While the government have taken extra measures to address these alarming statistics, the initial neglect of migrant abuse victims have now been exacerbated and migrants continue to be as invisible as ever within the conversation of abuse. During this crisis, there is a long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill set to be debated and scrutinised by the Public Bill Committee by Thursday 25 June 2020 and passed later this year. The new Bill was originally proposed by Theresa May’s Conservative Government but has been pushed back due to Brexit.The new Domestic Abuse Bill hopes to make provision in relation to domestic abuse, establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, prohibit cross-examination in person in family proceedings in certain circumstances and make provision about certain violent or sexual offences, and offences involving other abusive behaviour, committed outside the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes.More information can be found on: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/domesticabuse.html

While the new bill will certainly help domestic abuse victims across the nation with extra help from local governments and extra consideration from the courts, there is a dangerous neglect for this very vulnerable and overlooked group within society. Fortunately, groups like Step-Up Women are working towards advocating for migrant inclusion and recognising the intersectionality of abuse victims of BAME and migrant backgrounds.

But why is there such a need to include migrants in this conversation and the bill in question that requires special mention and care? And why is a lack of this so dangerous to migrant victims? Elizabeth Jimenez from Step-Up women, a non-governmental organisation that works tirelessly to provide migrant abuse victims with the help and support they need to come forward and overcome their abuse explains:No recourse to public funds The no recourse to public funds rule disallows migrants with certain immigration status’s from accessing public funds such as housing benefit, universal credit or child benefits. This becomes a bigger issue when migrant abuse victims attempt to seek refuge from their abusers as it allows them to be turned away from refuge centres. In 2019, 4 out of 5 migrant women were rejected from refuge’s as a consequence of this rule.Fear of immigration due to the governments hostile environment policies used to make migration status as difficult to attain as possible as an attempt to slow down migration, many migrant abuse victims experience a lack of trust of the public system. Elizabeth Jimenez reports that the Covid crisis has “exacerbated inequalities that women already experienced. Women’s trust in police is vital to flee violence. But when you have hostile environment policies, when you hear that the government places immigration status over abuse you will not come forward.” Culture and Language barriers for migrant abuse victims disallows victims from understanding their options and searching for safety which makes It difficult to understand your immigration status and financial options, Jimenez explains. Many of these victims will rely on their abuse relations for this support.Fortunately, many politicians such as the Scottish Liberal Democrats Christine Jardine are putting forward amendments for the inclusion and protection of migrants to parliament. These include creating an exemption from the No Recourse to Public Funds rule, calling on the government to create a firewall between the police and the Home Office, and demanding that the Domestic Abuse Bill reflect the provisions made in the Istanbul Convention which declares the rights of domestic abuse survivors to be protected without discrimination on any ground. In an interview with Jardine, she clarified that the need for these amendments is that it “is an opportunity, this is a way to protect all victims.”While the new bill is certainly doing more to protect the lives of victims it is not good enough if the government are not including extra vulnerable groups within our society. The state must do better to protect the lives of victims of domestic abuse under this new bill and this cannot be done unless all victims are included regardless of status.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/12/domestic-violence-surges-seven-hundred-per-cent-uk-coronavirus#

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