Last October my office published the Safety Before Status report about migrant survivors of domestic abuse. It found that some of the most vulnerable domestic abuse victims are being forced to stay with their abusers or face homelessness and destitution because they are ineligible to access public funds to flee.
Today the Home Office has published its response to the report’s recommendations. While I welcome some of the commitments, there remain considerable concerns about the provision of support for migrant victims of domestic abuse with insecure immigration status.
I welcome the Home Office’s commitment to develop a long-term solution following the Support for Migrant Victims (SMV) Pilot that ensures all victims of domestic abuse with insecure immigration status can access support and protection.
For this commitment to become a reality, the Home Office must provide sufficient new funding for accommodation and subsistence for domestic abuse victims with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), who are often unable to access safe accommodation such as refuge spaces.
This summer, my office will publish research which estimates how many domestic abuse victims with no recourse to public funds there are in the UK, and will outline how much funding must be set aside to extend support to all survivors with insecure immigration status in order to meet this commitment.
I am concerned to see that the Home Office has not outlined what interim support will be made available after the SMV pilot is due to end on March 31st. This leaves victims and survivors facing a cliff edge in support before any long-term decision is made later in the year.
In our report we recommended that interim funding of £18.7 million must be made available over three years to be distributed across all local authorities to ensure that survivors with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) can access safe accommodation and subsistence.
It is also essential that the Home Office fund the provision of specialist ‘by and for’ domestic abuse services which provide tailored support to survivors with insecure immigration status.
We have recommended £262.9m over three years to be allocated to a dedicated cross-department funding pot to fund specialist ‘by and for’ services for survivors with protected characteristics including to provide holistic wrap around support to migrant women with NRPF.
Within this, we estimate that £165.3m should be made available to specialist ‘by and for’ services for Black and minoritised survivors, including victims with insecure immigration status. We hope to see this funding allocated in upcoming Departmental funding settlements.
Our report, Safety Before Status, found that in order to ensure equal protection is available to victims and survivors, a Firewall must be established between immigration enforcement and the police and other public services.
The decision by the Home Office not to adopt a Firewall is extremely disappointing and will mean that migrant victims of domestic abuse are unable to safely report perpetrators for fear of deportation. In many cases victims may feel forced to stay with perpetrators who will never be brought to justice.
The measures outlined in the protocol announced by the Home Office on December 16th 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.
That report did say that no immigration enforcement action would 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.
It is therefore vital that these measures be accompanied by a robust funding package to ensure victims can access support, information and specialist legal advice and representation to help them regularise their immigration status and protect them from the additional risks and barriers created by having insecure immigration status.
We are glad to see that the Home Office has confirmed today that it will gather evidence needed to establish the costs of accommodating and supporting migrant victims who are not currently eligible for the DDVC.
We hope and expect Home Office to use this evidence to meet its commitment to support all victims and survivors of domestic abuse with insecure immigration status, including those with no recourse to public funds.
It remains our firm belief that no victim should be left behind and that we should put people’s safety before their immigration status. Victims are victims first and foremost and their safety must be paramount.
Please read the Government’s response here.
Please read the full Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Safety Before Status report here.