Govt urged to support immigrants fleeing domestic abuse

The government has been accused of abandoning victims of domestic violence because of their immigration status.

Amnesty International and Southall Black Sisters argue too little support is available to women with insecure immigration status attempting to escape from domestic violence.

They are calling on the government to ensure women can access funds and safe accommodation and are appealing for women fleeing violence to be exempted from the “no recourse to public funds requirement”.

The government says women in this situation represent a small minority of those denied recourse to public funds but insists it is working to help women.

In a joint-report entitled No Recourse- No Safety, Amnesty argues a safe escape route and the means of survival are “critical” for women at risk of abuse and central to their decision to leave.

It calls on the government to guarantee all women access to support services, regardless of their immigration status.

“The government is failing to respect its obligation under international human rights law to act with due diligence to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of this vulnerable group of women,” it said.

The domestic violence organisation Imkaan said it received 537 applications from women refused access to emergency support in London alone last year.

Southall Black Sisters estimated that in 2006 there were 600 women with insecure immigration status facing violence from their spouses.

But the Home Office said such applications make up less than ten per cent of those with no recourse to public funds.

A spokesman added: “However, we recognise we need to find a permanent solution to this issue and are working with other government departments on this.”

The Liberal Democrats accused the government of increasing the suffering felt by victims of abuse.

Lib Dem equalities spokesman Lynne Featherstone said more needed to be done to help abused women with insecure immigration status.

“With no real or secure support from the government, these women face a bleak choice between destitution or continued dependence on their abuser,” she said.

“The devil and the deep blue sea doesn’t quite describe what a grim choice this is.”

On International Women’s Day Jacqui Smith announced plans to launch a new scheme targeted at domestic violence victims with no recourse, which would pay their housing and living costs if they successfully applied for indefinite leave to remain.