Report highlights lack of support for migrant women during the COVID-19 pandemic
A report released by the Manchester charity Safety4Sisters has revealed that migrant women are being put at risk due to a lack of support because of their no recourse to public funds (NRPF) status and that this risk has greatly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the report the charity, who support vulnerable migrant women who’ve experienced gender-based violence, said demand for their services had doubled during the pandemic. The report revealed that despite desperately needing safe accommodation, 100% of the women referred to them has initially been refused this because of the NRPF condition. They said that this has resulted in their worsening physical health, mental health, poverty and racism.
What is no recourse to public funds?
The no recourse to public funds condition prevents migrants from gaining access to various public funds that include:
- attendance allowance
- carers allowance
- child benefit
- child tax credit
- council tax benefit
- council tax reduction
- disability living allowance
- housing and homelessness assistance
- housing benefit
- income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- income related employment & support allowance – ESA (IR)
- income support
- personal independence payment
- severe disablement allowance
- social fund payment
- state pension credit
- universal credit
- working tax credit
The policy of imposing no recourse to public funds on migrants with limited leave began in 2013 when the government began introducing their “hostile environment” policies and has since faced several legal challenges.
How has the pandemic affected migrant women?
Even before the pandemic hit the UK, migrant women here were already facing a significant lack of support, a spokesperson for Safety4Sisters said:
“Women with insecure immigration status are excluded,
disadvantaged, and increasingly unpopular. Their
existence in society has been considered illegitimate,
and accordingly the violence against them has been
disregarded and their access to justice and safety denied.”
This is a situation that has only worsened during the pandemic, with lockdown seeing increasing rates of domestic abuse. Safety4Sisters explained that the NRPF condition meant that many migrant women have to rely on their abusers and that lockdown only increased the power held over them. Despite this, no further support has been offered for migrant women without access to public funds.
One migrant women supported by Safety4Sisters claimed that the Home Office did not care about the dangerous situation they were in during the pandemic, she said:
“This is the experience of lockdown; they have shown us
that they just do not care whether we live or die. The very
meaning of asylum is safety, to protect to take care.
What does the report recommend?
Following their findings, Safety4Sisters are calling on the government to remove the imposed barriers and discriminatory policies which place migrant survivors of abuse at further harm.
Some of their recommendations include:
- Removing the NRPF condition to ensure that all women regardless of background have access to safety and protection when experiencing abuse.
- Including migrant women’s rights to safety and protection mechanisms in the Domestic Abuse Bill including establishing safe reporting mechanisms.
- Reinstate legal aid for immigration matters and ensure adequate funding for legally aided immigration advice and representation.
- National and local government emergency pandemic responses, including forward-focused ‘Build Back Better’ remedies to include Black and minoritised women and migrant women’s organisations and clearly communicate this publicly.
- Ensure proper investment in mental health support agencies across the NHS and private/public sector as a priority to manage the aftermath of the pandemic and ensure that interventions are targeted to vulnerable communities, specifically migrant women.
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(Image credit – Safety4Sisters)