Migrant women subject to gender-based violence says new Senedd report

MIGRANT women who are victims of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence face multiple barriers to getting the support they need, according to a new Senedd report.

The Equality and Social Justice Committee today launches their report Gender based violence: the needs of migrant women, which says the Welsh Government’s current domestic violence strategy does not properly address the needs of migrant women and children.

Today’s report highlights that migrant women facing domestic abuse and sexual violence are often stopped from seeking support by either not knowing their rights and not knowing where to go for help. The Committee says the Welsh Government should amend its Strategy on Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence to improve the support available to migrant women. The Committee warns that these women, already disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and abuse, risk being forced to endure further harm from the perpetrator or even being the subject of human trafficking.

Knowledge and Rights
Cultural norms, immigration abuse and language are all barriers to raising awareness of Welsh and UK law, says the Committee. Women without children are especially at risk, as they have less contact with schools, hospitals and other statutory services. The Committee says that the Welsh Government’s strategy to combat violence against women needs to increase engagement with migrant communities to get the message across to vulnerable women suffering abuse.

Language Barriers

A key barrier is the limited availability of language interpretation for women trying to access support. Some women are forced to rely on community or family members to translate for them, even when personal or confidential topics are being discussed. The report calls on the Welsh Government to create a directory of professional interpreters, so that complex, often legal, matters can be translated accurately and confidentially.

No Recourse to Public Funds

The UK Government policy of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) prohibits those on spouse or student visas from accessing benefits, homelessness assistance and local authority allocation of social housing. This means that many women feel trapped in abusive relationships, unaware that the Home Office can be asked to waive NRPF to support victims of violence and abuse.

The report recommends that the Welsh Government should set up a crisis fund that Welsh service providers can access in an emergency to cover the accommodation and support costs for survivors of gender-based violence until a decision on waiving UK NRPF has been made.

In a statement, Jenny Rathbone MS, Chair of the Equality and Social Justice Committee said:

“We heard compelling evidence that many migrant women are unaware of their rights;  or of what constitutes abusive behaviour. They are often deterred from seeking help by perpetrators who weaponize their No Recourse to Public Funds immigration status to stop them speaking out or get them thrown out of the country, even where children are involved.

“The vulnerability of this group of women requires a tailored approach to protect their rights. Greater public awareness is needed of the vulnerability of migrant women, some of whom are at risk of human slavery and trafficking. It is vital that the survivor voice is heard when developing policy; the Welsh Government should ensure that migrant women and those who support them continue to be represented at all levels.”

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