A coalition of organisations and experts working with these vulnerable groups have sent letters to the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru parties, to raise concerns about the impact the Illegal Migration Bill will have on victims of SGBV seeking refuge in the UK and calling for parties to commit to protecting survivors in their manifestos.
Under the new law, for example, migrant survivors would be excluded from the National Referral Mechanism and the asylum system.
In the letter, experts call on the parties to rethink the Illegal Migration Bill, which is receiving its third reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday 26th April, saying that - in its current form, the Bill would drive migrant victims of SGBV into the hands of traffickers and criminal gangs where they are likely to be exploited and put in further danger.
The signatories include representatives from the University of Birmingham, JustRight Scotland, Freedom from Torture, British Red Cross, Doctors of the World, Women’s Aid, Southall Black Sisters, and other organisations working to fight violence against women and girls.
The topic of immigration and asylum system is not a political football to be used to score points against opponents. It impacts real people every day causing additional harm to those it should be protecting.Professor Jenny Phillimore, Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Professor Jenny Phillimore, who leads the SEREDA Project, which examines SGBV experienced by refugees from displacement to arrival, said: “It is now well known that the British migration and asylum system is broken and unable to serve the public or protect and support some of the most vulnerable people in need of refuge and safety. Victims of sexual and gender-based violence, most of whom are women and children, are being failed by the system and are facing danger every step of the way. But it is within our politician’s gift to change that.
“That is why, today, we are calling for all political parties to include pledges to make desperately needed improvements to the Illegal Immigration Bill and the migration and asylum systems in their 2024 manifestos. The topic of immigration and asylum system is not a political football to be used to score points against opponents. It impacts real people every day causing additional harm to those it should be protecting.”
Citing research from the SEREDA project at the University of Birmingham, the letter sets out five pledges for politicians to include in their 2024 manifestos.
- Commit to revising, proposals in the Illegal Migration Bill that renege on protections for forced migrants, replacing these policies with an asylum system that is compassionate, fair and effective.
- Commit to systems to better inform forced migrant survivors of their rights, entitlements, and protections under UK law.
- Commit to increase funding for specialist services for forced migrant survivors of SGBV run by ‘for and by’ organisations.
- Establish firewall or system of secure reporting to make it safer for forced migrant survivors of SGBV with insecure immigration status to report crimes and abolish NRPF.
- Commit to extending the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession from 3 to 6 months and extend the Domestic Violence Rule to allow all partners (including unmarried partners) experiencing Domestic Abuse to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Sabrina Galella, Policy Officer at JustRight Scotland said: “The Illegal Migration Bill is effectively an asylum ban – it will protect traffickers and punish survivors. If passed, it will remove existing protections for victims of forced migration and sexual and gender-based violence. This Bill will undoubtedly trap countless victims of modern slavery and human trafficking into indefinite exploitation by denying them the right to say they are a victim of crime. It will prevent victims from accessing mechanisms of safety through which people can escape exploitation.
“This Bill is unworkable - it will only cause suffering and put further lives at risk. We urge all political parties to sign our pledge and to work towards more humane and practical solutions to support people when they need it most.”