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AIRE-led Coalition Urges UKBA to Address Domestic Violence

8 October 2012

AIRE Centre and Other Leading Organisations Urge UKBA to Take Steps to Save Women’s Lives

The AIRE Centre, along with four other leading UK organisations, has issued a letter to the UK Border Agency urging it to recognise the rights of domestic violence survivors who are living in the UK under EU law and face exclusion from refuges and other potentially life-saving assistance.

The letter is co-signed by the AIRE Centre, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, Rights of Women and Southall Black Sisters—some of the best-known and most respected voluntary sector organisations in the UK engaged in defending the rights of migrants.

The letter explains that due to gaps in the existing laws that cover the immigration status of European nationals and their family members, domestic violence victims who are living in the UK under EU law and are forced to flee their homes due to domestic violence are often excluded from the types of resources that would allow them to enter a refuge or obtain emergency housing.  This situation commonly forces women to choose between returning to their abusive partners and becoming homeless, along with their children.

The Border Agency has already closed this gap where the spouses and partners of British Citizens and settled persons are concerned.  This means that domestic violence victims who have come to the UK under EU law are in a uniquely vulnerable position.

‘We’ve received many requests for advice from women who fall into this very dangerous gap’, said Sarah St Vincent, a lawyer who is managing a women’s rights project at the AIRE Centre.  ‘In absolute terms, their numbers are relatively small, but they are very seriously affected.  We know of cases of women in this situation who chose to return to abusive partners because they believed they had no other choice.  No one should be placed in a position like that.’

‘All domestic violence victims in the UK have fundamental rights, and the UK is obligated to respect those rights’, added Adam Weiss, the AIRE Centre’s Legal Director.  ‘We think this gap resulted from an unintended oversight, and we hope the Border Agency will act quickly to address it in light of the serious consequences that have resulted.  There can be no justification for placing women and children who have suffered violence in such a vulnerable position.’

Download the Letter.

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