As coronavirus continues to dominate worldwide news and as countries enforce stringent lockdown measures, many are losing access to vital services – including migrant domestic abuse survivors.
Charities are forewarning politicians about the fall out of migrant domestic abuse victims who are particularly vulnerable now that service after service is ‘having to close doors’.
Domestic abuse services, BME specialist frontline services and human rights organisations are asking for emergency protections for migrant women.
“At a time when safety and healthcare is what we all need, migrant women victims of domestic abuse are denied these fundamental lifelines”, states the open letter to the Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Patel said she will ‘not let down’ victims of abuse during the pandemic.
The letter was organised by Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Amnesty International UK. Organisations have come together to express their fears that the health crisis is adding to victims’ difficult situations.
Self-isolation leads to more reports of women enduring domestic violence – a predictable but chilling reality
Self-isolation leads to more reports of women enduring domestic violence – a predictable but chilling reality. The letter states that data from China and Italy shows that domestic abuse will “exacerbate” due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
As the public are told to seek comfort and safety in their own homes, many forget that for thousands of people, home is anything but safe. Abusers can exercise their control even more fiercely.
Home Secretary has clarified that domestic abuse victims are able to leave home to find safety in a refuge, regardless of lockdown rules, promising that the government hasn’t “forgotten” them.
However, this is a government that has pushed through severe cuts to women’s refuges and domestic abuse victims’ safety nets. Patel says these individuals will be supported, yet as things stand there have been no added resources or extra funding made available to alleviate suffering.
Women with an undefined and insecure immigration status are particularly at risk, campaigners have pointed out, as they often are unable to access public funds. This means that they are not eligible for a bed in a refuge and are more likely to be turned away.
Many forget that for thousands of people, home is anything but safe
The letter urges the Government to “protect the many victims of this horrendous crime” regardless of immigration status by providing sufficient funding and support for all specialist services. Campaigners also want to see an end to NHS charges for victims that prevent or invoke fear in migrants from seeking help; want the police to stop data sharing with immigration enforcement and abolish the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ policy. The upcoming and long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill must include migrant women as eligible for such support.
A whole decade of the hostile environment has created the harshest climate and conditions for migrants, and even with restrictions being lifted, there is a long way to go to rebuild trust.
The letter also asks that specialist BME and migrant organisations are supported, including refuge, to ensure they can carry out their vital work of providing safety and security for marginalised individuals.
This is, and always has been, a matter of urgency. Time will tell if the Home Secretary makes good on her promise to support all those affected by domestic abuse, including migrants.