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Home Office publishes response to independent commissioner’s report on domestic abuse survivors with insecure immigration status


Safety Before Status report called for recognition of 'immigration abuse' as particular form of domestic abuse

Date of Publication:

The Home Office last week published its response to the independent Domestic Abuse Commissioner's important October 2021 report Safety Before Status. As we reported on EIN at the time, the Commissioner's report looked at how victims and survivors of domestic abuse with insecure immigration status could be better protected and supported.

Safety Before Status coverNicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, made sixteen recommendations to the Government in her report.

Last week's official response, available here, fully accepts five of the Commissioner's recommendations, partially accepts six, and does not accept five.

The Commissioner's report recognised the term 'immigration abuse' as a particular form of domestic abuse and recommended to the Home Office that a working definition of it should be introduced into all relevant policy and guidance. This recommendation was, however, only partially accepted by the Government.

In response to the recommendation, the Home Office drew attention to its recognition of the issue in forthcoming guidance. The Home Office explained: "Within the draft Domestic Abuse Act Statutory Guidance Framework and the draft Controlling and Coercive Behaviour Guidance, we have included detailed sections on how perpetrators can use a victim's immigration status as a means to exert power and control, making it more difficult for a victim to seek help. Within both sets of draft guidance we have drawn upon the key examples provided by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner in her response to the consultation on the draft Domestic Abuse Act Statutory Guidance."

The Commissioner's recommendation to establish a firewall to prevent date sharing between the police and the Home Office's Immigration Enforcement directorate was rejected. The Home Office referred the Commissioner to its earlier December 2021 review on data sharing, published in response to a complaint by Liberty and the women's rights charity Southall Black Sisters (see our article here).

Nicole Jacobs called the decision not to adopt a firewall "extremely disappointing" and said migrant victims of domestic abuse would continue not to report the crime out of fear of deportation.

On the positive side, the Commissioner welcomed the Home Office's commitment to develop a long-term solution to support victims following its recent Support for Migrant Victims (SMV) pilot scheme, which runs up to March 2022 and provides safe accommodation and resources to migrants and their children with no recourse to public funds.

The Home Office explained in its response: "We understand that access to safe accommodation and subsistence can be a vital lifeline for many victims of domestic abuse, including those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). One of the key aims of the Support for Migrant Victims (SMV) pilot scheme is to establish the evidence base to inform long-term decisions with regards to policy and funding. This includes establishing a clearer picture of the volume of migrant victims with NRPF who require accommodation and subsistence. … The outcome of the pilot and the independent evaluation report by Behavioural Insights Ltd will determine the extent and nature of any long-term options, but we are fully committed to ensuring that migrant victims of domestic abuse are supported effectively."

Nicole Jacobs said: "For this commitment to become a reality, the Home Office must provide sufficient new funding for accommodation and subsistence for domestic abuse victims with No Recourse to Public Funds, who are often unable to access safe accommodation such as refuge spaces. … I am concerned to see that the Home Office has not outlined what interim support will be made available after the SMV pilot is due to end on March 31st. This leaves victims and survivors facing a cliff edge in support before any long-term decision is made later in the year."