Peers defy government in landmark vote to secure safety for migrant victims

Protections for migrant victims of domestic abuse are one step closer to becoming law, following a landmark vote in the House of Lords today. 

Peers voted 214 to 208 in favour of a firewall amendment, which would stop the police, social care, and other public services from reporting migrant victims to Immigration Enforcement. 

Tabled by the crossbench peer Baroness Meacher, the amendment introduces a data-sharing firewall which would protect vulnerable victims who report domestic abuse, sexual violence, and modern slavery, amongst other crimes. 

All 43 police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police have shared information about victims of domestic abuse with immigration enforcement, according to data published by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner last year. 

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, says that the amendment would ensure that migrant victims feel safe to go to the police without fear of contact from Immigration Enforcement, ensuring perpetrators can be brought to justice.  

She says perpetrators of domestic abuse use the threat of immigration enforcement to control victims. Serial rapist and former police officer David Carrick reportedly threatened to report one of his victims to immigration enforcement if she reported him for abuse. 

Despite the government’s acknowledgment that “migrant victims should be treated as victims first and foremost”, they have repeatedly rejected calls for a firewall. 

Following today’s endorsement from the Lords, the firewall amendment will be returned to the Commons for MPs to reconsider. It is the Commissioner’s firm hope that MPs will vote in its favour.  

Nicole Jacobs says, “The House of Lords has sent a clear message to the government that migrant victims should be free to report abuse without fear of immigration enforcement.  

“The passage of this amendment is a landmark moment, bringing us one step closer to enshrining equal protection for migrant victims in the law.  

“As the Victims and Prisoners Bill approaches its final stages, I urge the government to make good on its own promise that migrant victims should be treated as victims first and foremost.  

“For too long dangerous perpetrators have been allowed to evade justice. Only with the introduction of a firewall will migrant survivors be able to safely report to the police.  

“I am grateful to the tireless campaigning of the Step-Up Migrant Women campaign, led by Latin American Women’s Rights Service, which has been instrumental in driving this important change today.”