Step Up Migrant Women UK! Migrant women have rights


Migrant women facing violence have the right to seek help and support, regardless of their immigration status, but often are more afraid of facing deportation. All women have the right to live free from violence.

Step Up Migrant Women UK seeks to establish a firewall protecting victims’ rights.

Step Up Migrant Women UK is a campaign supported by over 30 migrant, women and social justice organisations who believe that all women have the right to live free from violence. Step Up Migrant Women UK aims to establish a firewall separating victims’ rights from immigration enforcement. Our ultimate goal is very simple: we want to ensure that migrant women victims of violence and exploitation with insecure legal status are able to report those crimes safely, without fearing deportation.

“I suffered physical and sexual violence thinking that I had no alternative to flee because my ex-husband threatened me with deportation. Once I took the courage to report it to the police, I was questioned by the Home Office about my legal status. I was so scared, I felt discriminated against because of my immigration status, I felt disbelieved and worthless. I will never go back to the police” (Gisela, Brazil).

Women with undocumented or insecure legal status can face the grim experience of an increased vulnerability linked to their immigration situation. This is often the case for those who have dependant status, temporary visas, or those who are undocumented in the UK. In fact, a UK survey study conducted by Imkaan, showed how abusers use migrant women’s insecure legal status as a tool of control and how they employ threats to deportation. The official assessment for the identification of victims of crime also recognises that threats of deportation can be an indicator of trafficking or modern slavery:

“Abusive employers create physical and psychological obstacles by, for example, instilling fear in the domestic slave by threatening them, or their relatives, with further abuse or deportation, or by withholding their passport” (Home Office, Victims of Modern Slavery – Front Line Staff Guidance).

The Istanbul Convention, signed by the UK in 2012, states that “the implementation of the provision protects the rights of victims, shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, gender, race, […] age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status”. The EU Directive for the protection and safety of victims obliges member states to ensure certain basic rights to all victims of crime, and prioritises “individual’s’ dignity and safety above their administrative status”. In the UK, this is still not the case.

The government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy towards migrants hit women hard and put their rights and lives at risk. Migrant women with insecure legal status reporting VAWG and crime fear the fact that their details may be used for immigration control purposes. These policies marginalise victims and survivors with insecure status, stripping migrant women of their fundamental right to live free from abuse and violence, putting their lives at further risk and giving greater impunity to perpetrators.

Like Gisela, many migrant women face dangerous perpetrators and exploiters but are in fact more afraid to seek help because they fear a greater danger for themselves and their families. No woman should fear the estate more than a perpetrator.
We must remove these barriers, safe-reporting mechanisms can and must be introduced to ensure that all victims’ rights are upheld and that perpetrators cannot hide themselves behind ‘hostility’ policies.
Working at a national level, and linked in partnership with the EU level campaign led by Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), Step Up Migrant Women UK seeks to remove the barriers at policy and practice level for safe reporting of crimes and access to support services for women with insecure legal status.

We believe in social change where the voices of violence survivors along with the participation of UK organisations will create synergies to improve the living conditions for migrant women. We are Stepping Up because migrant women’s rights are human rights.

Organisations supporting the campaign:

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