Domestic Abuse: immigration and nationality legal aid

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 17th June 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:00 pm, 17th June 2020

I do not want to labour the point, but the purpose and remit of the DDVC and the domestic violence rule has been misunderstood. The DDVC and the rule were, and are, intended to provide a route to settlement for migrant victims who hold spousal visas, because they have a legitimate expectation of staying in the UK permanently. That is the nature of their status. That is why we say it is not, sadly, an easy transfer across for people on other types of visas, such as visitor visas—or, indeed, for people who have arrived here illegally. That is why it is a painstaking process to work out what we can do to help such victims with the immediate circumstances of their abuse, so that the immigration system plays its part and takes its course in the way that it would do for anyone on those different types of visas.

I appreciate the sensitivities of talking about illegal immigrants, but it is important to acknowledge that we have to balance the interests of people who apply properly for immigration routes, as well as the immigration interests of individual victims. That is why the Government keep coming back to the argument that the starting point for the process should not be people’s immigration status; it should be the care that they need to help them flee an abusive relationship, giving them the support they need to recover from that and to lead happier and healthier lives.

I talked about the human rights routes. People on human rights routes can also apply to have their no recourse to public funds condition lifted if their financial circumstances change. Equally, migrant victims on partner visas can already apply for the DDVC to be granted limitedly, with recourse to public funds. We are committed to the needs of victims, which is why we have introduced the pilot to help us understand the particular pressures and needs of these vulnerable people.

I started my speech by setting out the Government’s commitment to helping victims. I made the point that victims must be treated as victims and get the help they need. That is absolutely what we are focused on, which is why the next steps in our programme of work in this very difficult area are to publish the results of the review and then conduct the pilot, so that we can assess and implement the practical support that these vulnerable people need.