12 percent increase in number of domestic violence cases experienced by migrant women compared to 2020
Immigrant Council of Ireland calling for increased State supports to tackle domestic abuse targeted at migrant women as part of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
Cases of domestic violence experienced by migrant women are increasingly complex due to mixed immigration statuses and barriers to accessing mainstream services. That’s according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland who reported that the number of domestic violence cases experienced by migrant women has increased 12 per cent to-date in 2021 compared to the previous year.
Migrant women are less likely to leave abusive environments for fear of losing their immigration status due to their residence permission being tied to an abusive spouse. The economic and social stresses brought about by the Covid pandemic resulting in restricted movement and cramped homes is driving a surge in domestic violence. The Immigrant Council of Ireland is concerned that migrant victims may not be able to access supports or may be afraid to reach out for help.
As part of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the Immigrant Council is calling for increased State investment to tackle gender-based violence, including providing supports for victims and highlighting the rights of migrants in domestic violence situations. It is hoped that by helping migrants understand their legal rights around immigration permissions, victims will be better informed and feel more empowered to leave abusive environments.
Commenting today, Immigrant Council Integration Officer Valeria Aquino said: “No one should feel like they have to stay in an abusive relationship to preserve their immigration status. Not only do migrant victims in these situations have rights to apply for independent residency status, but there are many supports and services available for migrants to avail of, including the Immigrant Council’s Helpline and Independent Law Centre, which provides free, confidential legal and immigration information and advice. We also have a team of trained migrant experts called Community Navigators performing outreach in migrant communities across the country who can help victims understand their rights and options if facing domestic violence.
“We know migrants access information in different ways than mainstream Irish audiences. In the same way the State has realised different strategies are needed to communicate health information to migrants, there also needs to be different approaches to help migrant victims of domestic abuse understand their rights and that there are services available to help them.
“The most important message we can share is that if you are facing this terrible situation, you are not alone.”
In addition to the current system, where a migrant can seek permission to register their residence independently of an abusive spouse, the Immigrant Council believes all migrants should be able to gain access to independent residence after a certain length of time living in Ireland, regardless of their family relationships.
Hamda, one of the Immigrant Council’s Community Navigators providing outreach to Indian and Pakistani communities in Ireland, said: “As a Community Navigator I see the terrible impact domestic violence has on victims. Our service only began this September and already our team of six navigators have helped more than thirty victims experiencing domestic violence situations.
“It’s not just the Immigrant Council’s numbers showing this rising prevalence of domestic violence either. Domestic abuse in general has seen a 15 per cent rise based on 2020 reports from An Garda Síochána compared to 2019, while a 2020 report from Women’s Aid indicated a 90 per cent increase in calls to Women’s Aid Helpline facilitated through a language other than English compared to 2019. These numbers paint a frightening picture for many migrant women in Ireland.
“Many of the people we help report feeling trapped and helpless, and in many cases there are children involved which can contribute to the victim’s feeling of powerlessness to leave the abusive environment. What we want them to know is that they do not have to stay – that they have rights, and there is help available today.”
Migrants experiencing domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Immigrant Council’s Helpline on 01-674-0200 (Mon/Tues/Thurs/Fri) or visit www.immigrantcouncil.ie to access free information on their rights. Community Navigators can be contacted confidentially via email or referred through the Immigrant Council Helpline.