No Recourse - No Safety
By Heather Harvey, Amnesty International UK
Most people would like to think that a woman suffering violence, if she can find the courage to leave home, will do so and go to a refuge. However, this is not always the case, there are some women who may be quite legally here in the UK on valid but temporary or conditional visas who may live with violent husbands, in-laws or employers and not be able to escape to a refuge - even women who have been so badly abused as to have been doused with petrol and threatened to be set alight or forced to abort their baby or beaten till their bones are broken.
How can this be? It is a little known fact that a minor legal provision called the " no recourse to public funds rule" stops such women accessing a refuge. The refuge may have bed spaces available and be desperate to help but refuges work on the principle that those staying there either have private means to cover their costs or have income support and housing benefit to cover their cost. These benefits are "public funds" and so for instance a woman marrying a UK national and living here legally as his wife on a 2 year probationary visa as the marriage settles in, is dependent on her husband and has no recourse to "public funds". If the marriage turns violent the refuge can't take her as there are no funds to cover her and so she has to choose between staying with her abuser and risking her health and even her life, living on the streets destitute and vulnerable or going back to her home country - even though this may mean losing her children or indeed may be such a dishonour as to put her life at risk at home too.
Southall Black Sisters and Amnesty International UK are launching a new report " No recourse - No Safety" on the no recourse to public funds rule on Thursday 13th March. Please join us at the Human Rights action centre (17-25 New Inn Yard, EC2A 3EA nearest tubes Old Street and Liverpool Street) for a 7pm start. The event will be chaired by Samira Ahmed of Channel 4 News, speakers include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Hannana Siddiqui of SBS and a survivor. Then join us for a drinks reception afterwards from 8.30 onwards.
Please circulate and rsvp at www.amnesty.org.uk/events