MIGRANT domestic abuse victims may be shielded from legal action to encourage them to come forward
MIGRANT victims of domestic abuse could be shielded from legal action for illegally entering the country under new plans to encourage them to come forward.
The Home Office is developing a Migrant Victim Protocol which could "provide relief from enforcement action" so they feel safe to report their abusers to police.
It comes amid concern that victims of abuse are suffering in silence amid fears they could be deported if they come forward - and their abusers are using this fear to further terrorise them.
However, the Home Office said it has stopped short of introducing a "firewall" between police and the immigration service when dealing with unauthorised migrant victims of such abuse, which was called for by domestic violence charities.
A Home Office spokesman said: "We are committed to supporting all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of their immigration status.
“Following a review into data-sharing arrangements between policing and immigration enforcement, it was concluded that a ‘firewall’ is not an appropriate solution as stopping information sharing can impact law enforcement agencies ability to support victims.
"We are establishing a Migrant Victim Protocol which will provide assurance to victims that they can report crime.
"As committed to in the Domestic Abuse Plan, we are providing £1.4 million in 2022-23 to continue to fund the Support for Migrant Victim Scheme whilst we take on board lessons learned from the pilot."
The Support for Migrant Victims Scheme provides support services for migrant victims of domestic abuse with no recourse to public funds, including accommodation, subsistence, and counselling.
The spokesman added: "The pilot and independent evaluation aims to help to build the evidence-base needed to better understand the diverse needs of the migrant population, which in turn should inform any future change in policy.
"The Home Office is committed to supporting the reporting of crime affecting anyone and this includes migrants who have insecure immigration status. Current data sharing practices between the police and the Home Office are essential in protecting those most vulnerable and protecting the public from individuals who are considered to pose a risk of harm to communities."
In a letter to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Home Office said the protocol "will provide relief from enforcement action and assurance to victims that there is a safe pathway to report crime."
However, Domestic violence charities Solace and Refuge are pushing for more and have both written to the committee calling for it to recommend a moratorium on police reporting migrant domestic abuse victims for immigration breaches.
Solace said in its submission the Government should "use the Victims’ Bill as an opportunity to establish a firewall between all statutory services and partnerships and the Home Office alongside safe reporting mechanisms and funded pathways to support and legal advice."
It added: "Along with a number of specialist organisations supporting migrant victims, we believe a complete firewall would make victims/survivors and witnesses feel confident in approaching the police to report crimes and more likely to engage in criminal
proceedings, which will in turn allow the police to hold perpetrators to account."
A Refuge submission added: "The sector has been advocating for the Home Office to introduce a complete and unequivocal firewall between the police and immigration enforcement. We are clear that this is the only way to ensure that victims and witnesses of crime with insecure immigration status can safely come forward without the threat of negative immigration enforcement."