Throughout the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament, campaigners have repeatedly asked one question: how can the Government justify leaving migrant survivors of domestic abuse with no protection?
Yesterday, at a time when public attention is fixed on women’s safety, peers in the House of Lords supported key amendments to the bill which would ensure migrant survivors of domestic abuse can access the specialist care they need to cope and recover from their traumatic experiences.
Designed to prevent state officials from sharing survivors’ personal data with immigration enforcement, this amendment is vital for survivors who fear deportation if they report their perpetrator or access any support services.
We know that perpetrators often use this threat as a means to control their victims, so this amendment will also start to undermine the power of domestic abusers.
This amendment ensures migrant survivors can access a space in a domestic abuse refuge. This would end the shameful situation of migrant survivors being turned away from services just because of their immigration status.
Women’s Aid’s No Woman Turned Away project has found that most migrant survivors face insurmountable barriers to accessing safe refuges, meaning that they face the terrifying choice of either becoming homeless or returning to live with the perpetrator.
This amendment was moved, but as it was approaching midnight, the vote was deferred. We hope it will receive the same support as the other amendments when peers have the chance to vote on it.
It introduces the principle of ‘non-discrimination’ – as outlined in the Istanbul Convention – into the bill and policy. Although the UK is a signatory to the convention, it has not fully implemented it. In this instance, non-discrimination would mean that all survivors, including migrant survivors, would receive the same level of support.
The support for these changes in the House of Lords has been fantastic and taken together, this group of amendments would represent a huge step forward in ensuring migrant survivors are supported and protected in the UK. Unfortunately, it is by no means certain that these changes will remain part of the bill.
Once the bill has passed through the House of Lords, these amendments will be taken back to the House of Commons for MPs to vote on them. We need to make sure that MPs understand the life-saving nature of these changes, and that they stay true to the principle of protecting all survivors of domestic abuse.
On Thursday, campaigners including Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Southall Black Sisters are hosting an event to explain how supporters can make help make these changes permanent. You can sign up to the event here.
After that, the bill will return to the House of Commons, and MPs will need to show that they are serious about protecting all survivors of domestic abuse. How they vote on these amendments will be a key test of that.