Domestic abusers ‘using immigration status to control’, Suffolk study finds

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The University of Suffolk report has warned of coercion from domestic abusers - Credit: University of Suffolk

Domestic abusers are using victims’ immigration status as a tool of coercion and control, a report based on University of Suffolk  research has warned.

The Safety Before Status report draws on research by the Angelou Centre — which provides support for domestic abuse survivors — as well as a review of Home Office evidence from the Ipswich university.

In the report, Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs warned that some migrant victims are being forced to stay with their abusers or face destitution because they cannot access public funds to escape.

Ms Jacobs said victims whose status means they have no recourse to public funds are reluctant to report abuse because they fear police could pass information on to immigration officials.

She added these fears are being exploited by abusers threating that victims will be deported if they come forward.

One survivor said: "I could barely tolerate the abuse, but couldn’t dare going to the police."

Another told researchers: "I told him and his family I wanted to leave, and they told me if I did, I would starve because of my immigration status. That I have no rights in the UK.

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"He kept throwing my card [visa] at me and telling me to read what it says at the back, that I can’t get support."

Ms Jacobs described the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act this year as a "critical step forwards" — but warned those with no recourse to public funds will be left out of the provision.

She also called for the government to give local authorities £18.7million over three years so those with no access to public funds can seek refuge.

Ms Jacobs added: "Having spent over 20 years working on the front line, I have sat with victims and survivors and their children as they desperately seek a place of safety, only to be told that their immigration status means there is nowhere to go.

"This cannot be allowed to continue."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We welcome this research from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner.

"We are carefully considering the findings of the report and will respond in due course.

"We offer support to migrant victims of domestic abuse through the domestic violence indefinite leave to remain route as well as our destitute domestic violence concession, which provides crisis support where individuals can access safe accommodation and public funds."

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