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Understanding the Intersectionality of Asylum Seekers Experiencing Domestic Abuse: how these cases need to stop being seen as complex and embedded in our systems.

In the landscape of domestic abuse, the plight of asylum seekers in the UK often remains overlooked, their experiences silenced by the complexities of their status and the gaps in service provision.

The intersectionality of asylum seekers experiencing domestic abuse underscores the urgent need for all services to comprehend and address this complex reality like now.

One of the most significant barriers asylum seekers face when attempting to escape domestic abuse is their immigration status and this has been cited in reports and academic literature for years now please just as 2 examples but there are plenty more out there see Adisa, O (2020) .  An evaluation of Project Safety Net +: Supporting migrant victims/survivors of domestic abuse who (are believed to) have no recourse to public funds. University of Suffolk ,and Nicole Jacobs (Domestic abuse commissioner) report safety before status

Without legal documentation or recourse to public funds, they find themselves trapped in abusive relationships, unable to access essential support services for fear of deportation or detention.

At the heart of this issue lies a confluence of vulnerabilities: fleeing domestic abuse from ex partners whilst constantly thinking about your risk and safety because now you are exposed to post separation abuse including stalking and harassment as well as worrying about your immigration status and finally who can help me with both.

Thus the journey to asylum is fraught with challenges, and for many, it does not mark the end of their ordeal. Instead, it often exposes them to new forms of isolation and worries.

Some mainstream Domestic abuse services, designed to offer assistance to survivors, often remain closed to those without status because they feel they cannot support these complex cases or don’t have the right level of training leaving asylum seekers isolated and vulnerable- or they just don’t simply contact them back in a timely manner.

Furthermore, the intersectionality of asylum seekers’ experiences is compounded by the lack of domestic abuse literacy and knowledge within asylum and immigration services.

While these organisations play a crucial role in the lives of asylum seekers, providing emotional and safety support and guidance, many lack the necessary training and awareness to recognize and respond effectively to these cases of domestic abuse because of the lack of status and the workers understanding.

As a result, survivors may find themselves turned away or overlooked, their pleas for help falling on deaf ears with a lot turning to ‘by and for’ organisations who are already at their knees with referrals and at times just simply don’t have the capacity, others may turn to domestic abuse consultants and trainers like myself at H.O.P.E with referrals mainly coming in via social media.

The consequences of this systemic failure are dire.

Asylum seekers experiencing domestic abuse are left without recourse, trapped in cycles of violence with no means of escape and having to potentially self represent when it comes to their asylum claim due to not being able to afford legal representation due to not having access to legal aid or simply being costed out due to costs of solicitors.

The trauma they endure is compounded by the indifference of the very institutions tasked with protecting them, further exacerbating their sense of helplessness and isolation.

To address this pressing issue, comprehensive action is needed on multiple fronts.

Firstly, domestic abuse services must be made accessible to all survivors, regardless of their immigration status and fully trained in how to support asylum seekers experiencing domestic abuse.

Secondly, asylum and immigration services must undergo training to improve their domestic abuse literacy and responsiveness.

This includes recognising the signs of abuse, understanding the unique challenges faced by asylum seekers, and knowing how to effectively signpost survivors to appropriate support services.

Additionally, collaboration between domestic abuse services, asylum and immigration organisations, and other relevant stakeholders is essential to ensure a holistic and coordinated response to the needs of asylum seekers experiencing domestic abuse.

Let me give you an example just this week I was able to get a woman access to a women’s asylum and refugee support drop in centre and access a laptop for her so she can work on her asylum claim properly. (Thank you both services by the way you were phenomenal)

By working together, these entities can pool their resources and expertise to provide survivors with the comprehensive support they need to rebuild their lives free from violence.

In conclusion, the intersectionality of asylum seekers experiencing domestic abuse in the UK highlights the urgent need for all services to comprehend and address this complex reality.

By breaking down barriers, increasing awareness, and fostering collaboration, we can create a society where all survivors, regardless of their immigration status, receive the support and protection they deserve.

Remember for me it’s always been someone’s safety before their status.

It is only through collective action that we can truly make a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable among us.

People and agencies I want to thank this week:

Women Asylum Seekers Together

Lou Calvey: Refugee and Asylum Specialist

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit

Safety Before Sisters


Greater Manchester Police (GMP)

Dr Olumide Adisa

Sarah Wigley 

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