Skip to content or view screen version

Domestic Violence Victims failed by government legislation

Tamara Evans Braun | 02.12.2008 11:46 | Gender | Social Struggles | Cambridge

One in Four women in the UK will suffer from domestic violence. Although there are measures in place to help most people in this situation, a number of women with insecure immigration status are left trapped in abusive relationships. Last weekend, the Cambridge City Amnesty International Group organized a protest to demand that the UK government provides protection to ALL women who are victims of from domestic violence.

Activists and Politiian gather in Market Square, Cambridge.
Activists and Politiian gather in Market Square, Cambridge.

On Saturday 29th November, local Amnesty International supporters gathered in Central Cambridge to draw attention to the failure of the government to protect hundreds of women trapped in domestic violence. Demonstrators wearing white mouth-less masks to symbolize the voicelessness of these women collected around 500 signatures from the public in support of the campaign. MEP Richard Howitt, MP David Howarth and council leader Ian Nimmo-Smith were all present and spoke to the crowd about the issue.

The women in question have come to the UK on temporary visas such as student or spousal visas. On Entering the UK, they have 'No Recourse to Public Funds' stamped in their passport. This means that they do not have access to state benefits. When somebody is a victim of domestic violence and needs to escape to a refuge, the refuge pays for her up-keep using her housing benefit. If a woman with 'no recourse to public funds' becomes a victim of domestic violence, she often cannot fund her place in a refuge as she cannot claim housing benefit. As a result, even if she were to find the courage to seek help from the authorities, she can be simply turned away.

There are around 800 women in this situation in the UK every year, with up to 6 in the cambridge area. Refuges do all they can to provide safety, but with no housing benefit to fund the place, struggle to find the money to do so. Local councils also have difficulty finding funds to support such women.

The solution is simple; Amnesty is asking the government to protect these women by exempting them from the 'no recourse to public funds' rule.

Richard Howitt, the region’s MEP and Vice-chair of the Human Rights Committee on the European Parliament, addressing the demonstrators, said:
“No person, regardless of their immigration status, should be subject to violence or abuse. The ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule means that women who are in Britain on a marriage visa cannot access housing or benefits for the first 2 years, even if they are suffering from violent or sexual attacks. When 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence, I hope that we can find a way so that these women have access to the help and safety they need. Protection from violence should be a human right for all.”

Cambridge MP David Howarth also backing the campaign said “This is an appalling situation. These women should be able to feel safe while living in the UK and the system is letting them down badly. We must address this issue as a matter of urgency”.

“Under international law, the UK government has a duty to protect everyone in this country. In ignoring these women, the government is not fulfilling its international obligations." Truus Abbink, a local Amnesty spokesperson said, "It doesn't matter what the woman's visa status is. Other countries, like the US and Austria have made provisions to ensure that women in this category are protected. The UK Government can too."

Tamara Evans Braun
- e-mail:
- Homepage: