New immigration rules turn back the clock on domestic violence

Ruth Grove-White is a policy officer at the Migrants’ Rights Network

Stop-violence-against-womenFrom today, changes to the UK Immigration Rules (pdf), will make migrant victims of domestic violence more vulnerable to abuse. The changes mean that legal protection for migrant victims of domestic violence will no longer apply to applicants who have unspent criminal convictions.

This change has been described by campaigners as potentially turning the clock back by ten years in the way that domestic violence victims are treated in the UK.

Since 1999, there has been some form of legal protection for migrants who experience domestic violence in the UK. The current domestic violence rule protects those (usually women) coming to the UK on a spouse or partner visa, during the two year period before they can apply for settlement. Its introduction meant that people needing to flee violent relationships during their first two years here could apply for settlement in their own right in the UK – effectively they were released from being tied to their partner.

This is a critical safety net for the 700 or so individuals who are granted indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence rule every year.

As a result of today’s changes, migrants on a spouse or partner visa who are victims of domestic abuse will lose the assurance of government protection if they have unspent criminal convictions. It seems that some form of ‘sliding scale’ will be in operation here. For those with serious convictions the message is clear – the government will not offer you support to settle here, no matter if you have been subject to violent treatment by your partner in the UK.

Applicants under the domestic violence rule who have minor unspent convictions – which could include a parking or speeding ticket if issued in court – face a far less clear situation. Indications from government are that these applications will be treated on a ‘case by case’ basis, leaving real uncertainty for those who have minor convictions and are weighing up the risks of leaving an abusive domestic situation.

The dangers of this change for domestic violence victims – mostly women – are clear. Campaigners have pointed out (pdf) that removing protection for some domestic violence victims directly contradicts the government’s own Violence against Women strategy, and could result in some women being forced to remain in abusive relationships for fear of the alternatives.

So what has parliament’s response to these proposed changes been? These changes were released (pdf) by the government last week, alongside measures which will restrict international students coming to the UK. They are not subject to a parliamentary vote and, given the short time-frame available, it is unlikely that many MPs and peers have had the chance to fully scrutinise them.

But the issues here are likely to be of real concern to many parliamentarians, as reflected in the motion of regret drafted yesterday by Lord Avebury.

In the coming weeks and months we can expect debate about the details of this change to continue. But beyond this we urgently need to explore a bigger issue: whether the UK really values ‘tough’ immigration rules above the protection of women experiencing domestic abuse…

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Ruth Grove-White – You say: “which could include a parking or speeding ticket if issued in court”.

    On what basis do you make that claim?

  • Ruth Grove-White

    This follows the UKBA description of unspent criminal convictions, in the context of meeting the Good Character requirement for citizenship.

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Ruth Grove-White – You neglect to mention the following paragraph: “If you have an unspent conviction, your application for citizenship is unlikely to be successful. You should wait until the end of your rehabilitation period before applying.” Surely that covers it? What’s wrong with that?

    Perhaps you should consider that if someone has been convicted in a court then it is usually because the offence is more serious or there are circumstances which need checking. To not check who is eligible to come to this country would be a dereliction of duty surely?

    You may want to give your views by contacting the family of Anthony Edney, the man run down and killed by Delshad Aziz, an illegal immigrant who was banned from driving already.

    Or the family of Amy Houston, the 12 year old girl who died a lonely death after being crushed under a car driven by Aso Mohammed Imbrahim – also banned from driving, who fled the scene.

    This article seems to be a contrived excuse to bash the government and does not seem to consider the bigger picture where common sense doesn’t seem to come into play…

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  • Ed

    On what basis do you consider a parking or speeding ticket to be a criminal conviction? I think you should do a bit more research before putting pen to paper.

  • Mr. Sensible

    The whole immigration policy is a complete mess, designed to get headlines.

  • Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – What you say may be true but do you think that will ease the pain suffered by Mr and Mrs Houston on the murder of their little girl?

    Before you go off on one criticising this government with your blind support for the Labour Party, why don’t you stop and offer a bit of sympathy for these poor people please…

  • Amon

    I believe taht we are forgetting the real issue here, it is about VAW, and rights taken away, no matter what the justifications are not rights. Women forming 50% of international migration deserved 100% of rights to be safe.

  • Anon E Mouse

    Amon – They certainly do deserve to be kept safe but this article doesn’t seem to take into account the safety of individuals in this country when unpleasant individuals are given our protection and help and turn on us by acting in an illegal manner.

    Did you know the individual above was banned from driving, should have been removed from this country and when he ran over that 12 year old child he didn’t even bother to check on her situation he just ran off and only got three years in jail.

    That wretched little girl was left to die a slow, painful and lonely death and never had the chance to grow into a woman.

    I know where my sympathy lies Amon and it isn’t with the vile perpetrator of this horrible act (who can’t be deported btw since he has fathered two children after his release from prison where the stupid authorities didn’t deport him) and if you are seriously suggesting that a country shouldn’t have the rights to deport undesirables then you are in a minority here.

    This article is an excuse to complain about the government and the author has simply scrutinised the legislation to look for anything that will achieve that…

  • Anon E Mouse

    Amon – And just to reinforce my point the horrible individual who murdered that little girl has been given indefinite leave to remain in our country, done under legal aid of course, so we now have the rights of a child killer put ahead of decent law abiding people in this country and we have to pay for him since he lives on benefits.

    Shameful. The author of this shocking article should really stop, pause and think about the ramifications of what she advocates…

  • Ruth Grove-White

    Ed, Anon E Mouse raised the same question which I answered above with reference to the UKBA website.

    The issue here as far as I am concerned is whether victims of domestic violence can escape from potentially life-threatening situations or not. The domestic violence rule (which was hard fought-for for years before its introduction) enables around 700 women to flee violent homes per year – closing this route off to some women will mean that they have little choice but to stay subject to abuse. That does not represent progress in my opinion.

  • Anon E Mouse

    Ruth Grove-White – Your idea seems to reward criminals though. Why should this country not be allowed to decide who does and who doesn’t have the right to reside here?

    You are proposing a system that just requires someone to say “I’m being abused” and that’s it? That is truly bonkers and it is small wonder that this country is a popular choice for immigration.

    Why on earth should someone be allowed to reside here when they could just as easily be safe in their own country – it is the lunatics taking over the asylum.

    Anyway what is your opinion on the horrible murder of the innocent little 9 year old girl I mention above and the lack of power this country has to remove the vile criminal who perpetrated the act?

  • Duncan Stott

    Were domestic violence anything to do with the cases you mention, Anon E Mouse? If not, please stick to the subject.

    The issue is whether it’s right that our immigration rules will say to domestic violence victims: stay with your abusive partner or get deported. Why are you seeking to distract from this?

  • Amon

    I agree with Duncan, this case is not what is been discussed in this article, but VAW. When you take us down the wrong road, you are drawing away from the real issue. Women deserve better!!

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