Refuge reports that many survivors of domestic abuse are yet to apply for Settled Status and fear this will put vulnerable families at further risk.
EU Settlement Scheme Deadline 30 June 2021: Refuge reports that many survivors of domestic abuse are yet to apply for Settled Status and fear this will put vulnerable families at further risk.
With the 30 June deadline for applying for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) fast approaching, reports from Refuge’s frontline services indicate that many migrant survivors of domestic abuse remain unaware that they need to apply to the scheme, or know how to make an application. Many are reportedly unaware that they must also apply for the scheme on behalf of their children and other dependants.
In the years between 2018-2021, 46% of survivors supported by Refuge’s specialist Eastern European advocacy service required language support, with many prevented from learning English by their abusers. These language barriers have made it difficult for many who do not know they need to apply, let alone how to navigate the EUSS application system. The government needed to do more to ensure their message reached the most vulnerable and isolated people.
Migrant survivors of domestic abuse already face complex and multiple barriers to accessing support and escaping their abusers. Some EU nationals experiencing domestic abuse have found it difficult to provide the necessary evidence for the settlement scheme as their enforced isolation has left them without the necessary documentation, even after many years of life in UK. Others have reported having their documentation destroyed by their abusive partners. Refuge is aware that some of the women we support have been frequently told by their abusers that, due to Brexit, they could no longer call the police or access medical care and that they risked deportation if they took such steps.
Refuge is now concerned that missing the deadline will have a devastating impact on migrant survivors and that that some survivors of abuse will effectively become invisible to services. Many migrant women are already locked out of support services due to their “no recourse to public funds” status. If nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) miss this deadline Refuge is worried this could result in an even more precarious position. Failing to apply by the deadline could result in women being locked out of work, healthcare, benefits and even facing deportation. Refuge is concerned that this could lead to women being afraid of reporting incidents of abuse to police, social services or even accessing health care if injured. The government must ensure that support is accessible for all survivors of abuse, including those with ‘no recourse to public funds’ or with insecure immigration status and provides a route to remain for all migrant survivors.
Refuge is concerned that while the Home Office asserts that late applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that domestic abuse will be taken into account, there is no guarantee that EEA survivors who miss the deadline will be able to regularise their status via the EUSS. We therefore urge the government to ensure, as a minimum, that EEA survivors are exempt from the impending deadline to guarantee survivors of abuse who have missed the deadline will not become undocumented overnight and locked out of vital support services.
Mari Edwards, Refuge’s head of operations said:
“Through our frontline work with survivors, Refuge knows that there is confusion about the application process and many misconceptions about who should apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The application scheme has been painted as a simple one – but that is not the reality for many women. We have supported women who have been prevented from working or accessing services by their abusers, and who have had to gather suitcases full of letters and documents, just to show they live in this country. When your abuser has been isolating and controlling you and keeping you removed from society to begin with, proving your residency is no simple task. And many women Refuge has supported have still not received the outcome of their applications as there is a huge backlog of cases. This is likely to increase as the deadline lapses. What will become of those cases post the 30 June deadline is unclear. There’s a high level of fear surrounding Brexit and the EUSS.
There’s also no clarity on what will happen to those who don’t apply in time, so we are at a loss to know what to say to the women in our services. Migrant women may already hold mistrust for the police and state-run services, and Refuge is concerned that the changing immigration landscape will marginalise them and their children even further. In just a few days it will be a whole new world and we’re worried about the impact this will have on the women we support.
It is crucial that EEA domestic abuse survivors and their families are given a guarantee that late applications will be accepted after 30 June deadline and that legal aid is available to vulnerable survivors, so they have the legal help they need in making their application. Refuge will continue to support all women, no matter their immigration status. Call us on 0808 2000 247 or visit our website at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. Refuge is here for you, you are not alone. Support is available.”
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.
Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.