Recent reports have shown that the refusal rate for DVA (Domestic Violence and Abuse) victims applying to stay in the UK has more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 since the government announced their intentions to put in place more measures against illegal immigration.
A new rule, enabling immigrants entering the UK on a spousal visa and subsequently becoming victims of DVA the right to apply for leave to remain, was introduced in 2002 following pressure from campaigners. The rule was intended to help migrant women who are left with the decision of facing deportation or enduring continued abuse from their partners.
Refusal Rates Statistics, UK
Following the release of a report produced by Claire Waxman – London’s first Victim’s Commissioner – the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has called on the Home Secretary to act urgently on protecting DVA victims with insecure immigration status.
The report includes several interviews between Waxman and women who experienced DVA from their spouses soon after arriving in the UK on a spousal visa.
One case study reports that the victim’s husband, in addition to regularly inflicting physical abuse upon her, controlled all of the household funds and kept one of their twin babies at home when she was out to ensure her return.
She was told by her husband that her stay within the UK depended on their marriage and leaving him would result in her deportation. He further said that he would gain sole custody of the children because she was unable to speak English and her financial situation. On contacting the police, her fears about lack of rights were confirmed, and she became an offender in an immigration case.
Both the Commissioner and Mayor have requested a reinstatement of legal aid for these cases, ensuring the victim’s access to advice and support. They have requested financial assistance and safe accommodation for the victims, as well as operational guidelines which prioritise safety and support when responding to the victim’s insecure immigration status.
Campaigners are also calling for change, arguing that the situation for these women has worsened over the past four years. Speaking on behalf of Southall Black Sisters – a group which campaigns for the rights of black and other minority women – legal policy and campaigns officer Radhika Handa commented:
“We have this really hostile state climate where migrant women suffering domestic violence are being sacrificed at the altar of an immigration policy obsessed with limiting rights.”
Since 2015, applicants only have the right to administrative review, making it harder for victims to appeal a decision once it has been made. Further statistics show that only 2% of administrative reviews from 2015 to May 2018 has resulted in the initial Home Office decision being overturned.
Commenting on applicants’ difficulty in challenging a decision, a spokesperson for the Home Office released the following statement:
“Since initial decisions on domestic violence applications are made by a specially trained group, it is to be expected that successful reviews of their decisions are rare.”