15 August 2018
- London’s independent Victims’ Commissioner has found victims are so fearful of immigration controls that they are not reporting serious crimes such as domestic and sexual abuse
- Joint call for government to end hostile environment policies and implement measures to support victims of serious violence
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the capital’s Victims’ Commissioner have called on the Home Secretary to urgently act to protect victims of crime with insecure immigration status.
Work carried out by Claire Waxman, London’s first Victims’ Commissioner, has highlighted cases of victims who are too frightened to report crimes and forced to remain in abusive relationships due to their immigration status. The government’s hostile environment policies are leading to vulnerable people being denied access to much-needed services and facing significant risk of being unlawfully detained.
Claire has been working closely with women and girls directly affected by domestic abuse who have experienced barriers to support as a result of their immigration status. Both the Mayor and the Victims’ Commissioner are clear that the government must take action to support the victims of abuse and Sadiq has today written to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
The Mayor and the Victims’ Commissioner have jointly called for:
- The reinstatement of legal aid for immigration cases to ensure those with insecure status can access independent advice and support
- Victims of violence to be entitled to financial support and safe accommodation in order to leave an abusive relationship, irrespective of their immigrations status
- Operational guidelines on how to respond to victims with insecure immigration status, including prioritising safety and support over immigration offences.
Claire Waxman has been gathering evidence by speaking to victims in her first year as London’s Victims’ Commissioner, underpinning her ongoing commitment to ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system, that no victim fears coming forward to report crimes and all victims can access the support and services they deserve.
In one case told to the Victims’ Commissioner, a victim arrived in the UK on a spousal visa and quickly began experiencing domestic violence – her husband reportedly controlled all the money, kept one of their twin babies at home when she was allowed out to ensure she would not flee and inflicted violence on her regularly.
Her husband told her that if she phoned the police she would be arrested and deported because she was an illegal immigrant and could only stay in the UK as long as she was married to him. He also said the court would award the children to him because she had no money and could not speak English. When she eventually summoned the courage to contact the police, they confirmed her fears telling her she had no rights, and she became the offender in an immigration case and not the victim in a domestic abuse case.
In light of incidents like this, the Metropolitan Police Service has agreed to work with the Victims’ Commissioner to improve how cases are handled, for example by introducing a set of guidelines and principles on how to respond to victims with insecure immigration status for all immigration officials.
Claire Waxman, London’s first Victims’ Commissioner, said: “Sadly, this is not an isolated case with a number of migrant women never reporting episodes of violence in London due to a fear of deportation. I have met far too many victims trapped in violent and oppressive relationships who feel they have no way out because they can’t safely access support due to fears of being detained or deported.
“Both the Mayor and I are clear that all victims of abuse must have full confidence to report crime and their abusers to ensure justice is done, no matter what their status might be.
“I have put forward a series of measures the government should implement immediately so that no victim ever fears having to come forward and they know they will have proper access to support and justice.
“My primary focus as London’s first ever Victims’ Commissioner has been to champion and defend the interests of victims, to ensure their voices are heard and I am committed to doing everything I can to help them get access to a transparent, fair and inclusive criminal justice system.”
Claire is leading the first ever compliance review of the Victims’ Code of Practice in London, scrutinising how justice agencies are fulfilling their duties to victims in order to tackle the decline in victim satisfaction and identify how victims’ rights should be strengthened. She is also conducting a comprehensive assessment of support services in the city to inform commissioning and improve service provision so the needs of all victims can be met.
As part of her role, Claire has overseen the implementation of victim-focused training for the Metropolitan Police, benefitting more than 14,000 frontline officers. She also hosts an annual Victims’ Summit to share best practice for authorities to tackle some of the most complex problems faced by victims.
Claire has also led an in-depth consultation with survivors of violence against women and girls, resulting in a review into rape cases in London to identify where cases are delayed or abandoned. This has led to her lobbying the Government for improved handling of sensitive data during the disclosure practice so that victims’ right to privacy is considered and upheld during the judicial process. She has also called on the Government to ban cross examination of victims by their abusers in family and civil courts.