We as women, have the right to feel protected if we experience violence,
We as women, have the right to be believed if we report this violence,
We as women, have the right to live a dignified life free of violence.
- Migrant survivors of violence speak out in the SUMW campaign
In drafting the Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) Bill, the Government’s announcements in the Queen’s Speech stated that it aims to:
“Transform our approach to domestic violence and abuse to ensure that victims have the confidence to come forward and report their experiences, safe in the knowledge that the state and justice system will do everything it can to both support them and their children and pursue their abuser.”
However, today’s government’s ‘hostile environment’ towards migrants has made it even more difficult for migrant women fleeing violence to obtain support and shelter without facing persecution. Last November, a victim of sexual violence and kidnapping was arrested by the Home Office as she disclosed that she’d been raped while seeking healthcare support. This is often the case for those who have dependent status, temporary visas, or who are undocumented in the UK; they are reported to the Home Office if police officers suspect they have irregular immigration status.
As a matter of urgency, the Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) campaign launched by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service on 1 November to demand a separation of immigration control from victims’ right to safety and protection. More than 28 organisations from the migrant, women and social justice sectors voiced the need for a firewall protecting migrant women survivors from the re-victimisation of immigration control.
Regarding the applicability of the DVA Bill, the migrant women in the SUMW campaign raised the question: “Where do we, migrant women with No Recourse to Public Funds, fit in the Bill? Will the Bill protect and safeguard other migrant women experiencing gendered violence when they report to the police? Will the Bill prioritise my safety above the type of passport I hold?”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who previously stated that the police are “duty-bound” to report undocumented victims of crime to the Home Office, tweeted in response to the rape victim: “This is a completely unacceptable way to treat victims and I have asked my deputy mayor Sophie K Linden to pick this up with the Met as a matter of urgency.”
The SUMW campaign demands the recognition of the rights of all women to be able to safely report crimes, to ensure the right to dignity and safety for all migrant women regardless of their immigration status.
Support this campaign led by refugee and migrant women. Visit SUMW website here, Watch the SUMW campaign video and sign the open statement here.