Ministers urge UK Government to ‘do the right thing’ and extend safeguards against domestic violence to migrant women
Welsh and Scottish Ministers have called for the UK Government to extend safeguards against domestic violence to migrant women in response to the Home Office’s partial ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
The Convention obliges signatories to take steps to tackle violence against women and girls, but the UK Government has declined to include Article 59, which requires states to grant residence to survivors whose immigration status depends on an abusive partner.
The UK signed the convention in 2012, but only announced that it would ratify it by the end of July, last month.
The Home Office said it had reserved article 59 because the matter is under review pending the conclusion and evaluation of the Support for Migrant Victims pilot scheme.
A coalition of more than 80 women’s organisations have criticised the decision and in an open letter addressed to the home secretary, Priti Patel, said the decision “reinforces the power of the perpetrators and increases the risk faced by migrant survivors”.
In their joint letter, Welsh Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie urged UK Safeguarding Minister Amanda Solloway to “do the right thing by migrant women” by ratifying Article 59, pointing out that the Convention specifically prohibits discrimination of any kind.
The Ministers also questioned the justification for delaying full ratification of the Convention and called for UK ministers to come to a policy agreement that works for all UK nations.
“As the pilot is testing the question of how, not whether, migrant victims and survivors are supported, we are not clear why this would lead you to submit a reservation to Article 59,” they observe.
“The Pilot would appear to be more about operational practice which, while clearly important, does appear secondary to the principle behind Article 59. It is on these grounds that we ask you to withdraw the exemption immediately.”
“If you are not willing to reverse your decision at this time, we would suggest we have a window of opportunity to come to a policy agreement that works for all nations once the pilot is complete,” they add.
“We recognise that ratification itself is a prerogative power exercised by UK Ministers, nonetheless this Treaty gives rise to obligations in devolved areas and we would wish to discuss with you how this can be reconciled.
“We understand that your officials have agreed to meet with counterparts in Scotland and Wales to discuss this in the autumn.
It is important that officials are not just updated on the findings of the review at that meeting but discuss a resolution to our concerns.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have fully ratified the Istanbul Convention, sending a strong message that the government is committed to tackling violence against women and girls.
“Anyone who has suffered domestic abuse must be treated as a victim first and foremost, regardless of immigration status, and we will carefully consider the findings of the Support for Migrant Victims Scheme pilot.
“This does not affect a migrant victim’s ability to get support and regularise their stay here, and we are providing these victims of domestic abuse with an additional £1.4m in funding for 2022-23.”
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