Vulnerable women too fearful of deporation to report violent and sexual abuse

Vulnerable women are so afraid of being deported they are not reporting violent and sexual abuse to police or seeking protection, a new report warns.

The Government’s hostile environment policy, which recently came under fire over the Windrush scandal, is placing immigration enforcement above concerns over women’s safety, according to the briefing, Women Living in a Hostile Environment.

Rigid immigration checks in GP surgeries, hospitals, schools and colleges and police stations are trapping survivors of abuse, trafficking and forced marriage in violent situations, it claims.

Women’s groups, hosted by the MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq, will launch the report at an event in Parliament on Wednesday.

Rachel Krys (picture), co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “The public are rightly outraged by the devastating impact the hostile environment immigration policy has had on the lives of the Windrush Generation.

“The same policy is also leaving many women at risk of violence and exploitation, scaring them away from seeking help, and making it harder for them to access life-saving services.

“Abusive men often use control of immigration papers and what women can find out about their and their children’s status, to threaten and control them.”

Meena Patel from Southall Black Sisters, a charity highlighting and challenging violence against black and minority women, said it was not uncommon for women to return to their abusive partners and never ask for support again, calling the situation “heartbreaking”.

In one case mentioned in the report, a woman from Bolivia was denied a space in a refuge because of her immigration status and therefore forced to continue to live with a partner who was subjecting her to emotional and psychological abuse.

Another woman was questioned over her immigration status when she sought help after her husband attempted to strangle her and threatened to kill her.

The briefing urges MPs to support new measures in the proposed Domestic Violence Bill, including prioritising women’s safety over immigration controls, and ensuring a protective “firewall” between public services and immigration bodies.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We will consider the report very carefully.

“Protecting vulnerable women from violence and abuse is of the utmost importance and we work closely with local authorities, charities and other organisations to ensure people with an uncertain immigration status receive the appropriate support.

“We would encourage those with concerns to come forward so we can assist them. We deal with such matters sympathetically on a case by case basis.

“This Government is committed to tackling violence against women and girls and we have pledged £100 million in funding to support victims, prevent abuse and tackle perpetrators of these terrible crimes.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rick Findler / PA Wire.