Women’s charities have raised the alarm that victims of domestic violence are being refused places at refuges because they do not speak sufficient English.
Those turned away include a mother with a 14-month-old baby who was fleeing violence after being held as a slave by her ex-husband.
Karma Nirvana, which supports those at risk from forced marriage and “honour”-based violence, said squeezed services in the lockdown period made it even harder for migrant women to access refuge places. Of 20 women Karma Nirvana could not find a refuge for during lockdown, it said five were turned down by six separate refuges for not speaking English.
Migrants falling under the “No Recourse To Public Funds” rule due to being dependent on a partner’s wages or status already face further barriers in escaping domestic violence. NRPF bars many migrants from accessing a vast proportion of the social security net we all rely on in times of crisis.
They are barred from Universal Credit, disability allowances, local authority homelessness support and access to mainstream refuges for victims of domestic violence. With recent job losses due to lockdown, more migrants are running up against walls of NRPF.
For some migrants without right to remain in the country, reporting domestic violence to the police or specialist services risks data sharing with immigration enforcement, and ultimately deportation (for them and their children).
It is no surprise that with domestic violence increasing and services already stretched, pre-pandemic, it is even harder for migrant women to access domestic violence services.
We must fight for funding for domestic violence services to have proper funding, with increased refuge places and specialist services including translators and interpreters available across the sector. We must fight for safe-reporting mechanisms and the end of data-sharing policies when victims approach the police.
We must also fight for a social security system that offers housing and benefits to enable anyone to leave an abusive partner without risking impoverishment.