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Domestic violence victims ‘trapped’ by immigration laws

Victims are often afraid to report abuse because they fear it will impact on their immigration status.

Image: Woman at window via Shutterstock

THE IMMIGRANT COUNCIL of Ireland today warned that immigrants are “feeling trapped” in violent relationships because they fear reporting abuse could affect their ability to remain in the country.

ICI said that Irish immigration law is failing to offer proper protections to victims of domestic violence and has made a submission to the Oireachtas Justice Committee calling for action.

Campaigners are warning that victims are not coming forward because of fears it could impact on their ability to remain in the country and this shortfall is leaving people open to threats, abuse and violence.

Trapped

Liwei, a Chinese national, arrived in Ireland in 2011 with her Irish husband in 2011 having lived in Hong Kong with him for ten years. He had become violent and controlling before their return to Ireland and she hoped a move closer to his family would force him to change but his behaviour only got worse.

As her husband controlled her finances, she had no money and her immigration status in Ireland eventually expired. Liwei spent three months trying to fix her situation, corresponding with immigration authorities on her legal stats and also attempting to receive the minimum financial assistance required for her to stay at a women’s refuge.

With the intervention of ICI, she was eventually granted emergency payments but during this time she considered returning to her abusive husband because of the lack of options available.

ICI said this is just one of many examples of how the system is failing immigrants in Ireland.

“In recent years our frontline services at the ICI alone assisted in 54 cases where domestic violence was a factor, 8 of these cases in 2013 alone, through our work we are also aware of many other incidents where victims are being supported by others,” Brian Killoran of ICI said.

In its submission to the Oireachtas committee the Council is seeking action in four areas:

  • The need to formally recognise domestic violence in immigration law;
  • Reform of current administrative practices;
  • The provision of safe emergency accommodation as well as welfare benefits;
  • That the Irish government sign and ratify the Council Of Europe Convention on Combating and Preventing Violence against Women and Domestic Violence as a matter of urgency.

Killoran said he hoped that members of the committee “ensure that its consideration of the issues involved is conducted in a timely manner in order to offer hope to victims”.

Read: Change in law sees almost 13,000 applications for safety and protection orders>

Read: New committee report will ‘lift the lid’ on domestic abuse>

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