Migrant women must not be excluded from protections in the Domestic Abuse Bill
No woman fleeing her abusers should be turned away from accessing lifesaving refuge spaces or other safe accommodation because they have 'No Recourse to Public Funds'.
This week MPs will have the chance to make sure that no woman is left behind and that all domestic abuse victims are treated equally.
Today, the Domestic Abuse Bill returns to the Commons. Labour will ask MPs from across the House to support Lords amendments so that all women, regardless of their immigration status, are not excluded from the Domestic Abuse Bill's protective measures.
As it stands, we are currently forcing migrant women back into the hands of their abusers and offering them very little alternative
Every victim of domestic abuse should be treated first a foremost as a victim. Sadly I have overseen many cases where that has not been true. No woman fleeing her abusers should be turned away from accessing lifesaving refuge spaces or other safe accommodation because they have 'No Recourse to Public Funds'. Women who wish to report their abuse to the police should not second-guess if they will face deportation for coming forward. As it stands, we are currently forcing migrant women back into the hands of their abusers and offering them very little alternative.
The government is currently allowing perpetrators to weaponise the insecure immigration status of victims to silence them from coming forward, and trapping victims in unsafe homes by stopping them from accessing the welfare safety net. Making it easier for abusers to escape justice and carry on abusing women.
The government has said it has listened to victims' stories but did not support the amendments put forward. Instead, the government has offered to fund a pilot project for one year only. We don’t need another pilot project. Specialist organisations have been clear this project is entirely inadequate.
There is already so much evidence from specialist organisations documenting the needs of migrant women. We have the answers, and there is an acknowledged consensus amongst the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector, as well as the government’s own Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Victims Commissioner. We need action and the government to enshrine statutory protection for migrant women in the Bill.
I have heard this Bill repeatedly described as ‘landmark’ legislation or ‘once in a generation'. Without these amendments it falls well short of that mark. If it were the case, the Bill would seize this opportunity and ensure that this country's laws offer everyone safety, no matter where they are born. Without these amendments, migrant women will be forced to stay in abusive relationships, and worse, some will sadly lose their lives.
When we deny access to services or treat victims differently based on their immigration status, the only person who wins are dangerous perpetrators who can evade the consequences of their actions. We can do better than this, and that is why I am urging all MPs to support all amendments, so we can make this Bill deliver the changes so desperately needed.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and is the shadow minister for domestic abuse.