Abolish No Recourse Day of Action

// 22 April 2008

One of the ways our immigration ‘system’ discriminates against women is the “no recourse to public funds” rule, which prevents any person who has migrated to the UK on the basis of marriage to a citizen from using public services until their immigration position is regularised, as Southall Black Sisters explain on their website.

The net result is that migrant women can be forced to choose between staying with an abusive partners, or potentially being deported, and/or are not about to access the publically-funded services that they need in order to leave that situation.

In 2002, following immense pressure, the government introduced the ‘domestic violence rule’ in immigration law, which states that if a person married or living with a settled partner can provide specific evidence to demonstrate that she/he is a

victim of domestic violence and meet other conditions, she/he can remain in the UK indefinitely. But for a significant number of women, the existence of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ requirement in immigration and welfare law, prevents them from

making use of the domestic violence rule because they cannot access safe housing or benefits to escape domestic violence. The result is that they are faced with a stark choice, leave and face destitution or stay and risk their lives.

This Wednesday, SBS, along with Amnesty, Poppy and a host of other groups, is backing a day of action to call on the government to abolish the no recourse rule, and take a series of steps to protect migrant women in abusive relationships. For example, the groups are calling for visa applications to be fast tracked if there is “prima facie evidence of domestic violence”.

For those in London, there is a protest in Westminster you can attend (unfortunately in the morning, on a weekday, but still).

From SBS:

CampaignToAbolishNoRecourseLeafletA4.pdf (4 pages)-1.jpg

Details of the protest:

The plan for the Day of Action is to assemble at 11.00am for a demonstration at 11.30-12.30 on the Embankment opposite Portcullis House, Westminster, London (nearest tube Westminster) we were not able to get permission to gather in Parliament Square. A big, bold and beautiful banner is being made by an Amnesty artist. Please wear black on the day.

The public meeting will begin at 1pm in Portcullis House, details of the speakers will follow shortly.

(Via High On Rebellion)

Comments From You

Shea // Posted 22 April 2008 at 8:25 am

You are mistaken, the “no recourse to public funds” rule varies according to your status. My husband was granted “limited leave to remain” but was told he would be able to claim public funds if absolutely necessary, however this might prejudice his application for settlement as it would demonstrate he was not able to provide for himself. But there is an option to claim funds and in fact he did- in the form of the health service (a major operation) without any detriment to his application (he has just been granted British nationality).

Shea // Posted 22 April 2008 at 8:39 am

Also I might be wrong but in Australia & New Zealand abused women get indefinite leave automatically, I thought that the govt had introduced something similar here a while ago?

The above also makes a compelling case for introducing an IMBRA style law. Anyone applying for a fiance/fiancee visa would need to disclose to their partner any history of violent behaviour and criminal record.

Spicy // Posted 22 April 2008 at 1:18 pm

You are mistaken, the “no recourse to public funds” rule varies according to your status.

No – it is you who is mistaken. As clearly stated in the opening paragraph, the “no recourse to public funds” rule […] prevents any person who has migrated to the UK on the basis of marriage to a citizen from using public services until their immigration position is regularised

Your husband was given (limited) access to public funds following the regularisation of his status. No recourse means just that – no welfare benefits, no health care services and no housing.

Also I might be wrong but in Australia & New Zealand abused women get indefinite leave automatically, I thought that the govt had introduced something similar here a while ago?

No they didn’t – hence the importance of this campaign as a first step towards this eventual goal.

In the past week alone I have dealt with:

an Afghani woman whose husband fractured three ribs when he kicked her on the floor who is facing a huge hospital bill who has no money, no relatives in this country and no friends having been kept a virtual prisoner in her home for the past twenty months.

a Pakistani woman with two small boys who has fled her violent husband and is now facing destitution because the local authority would only provide her with two weeks accommodation. The Social Services have offered to take the children into care and give her a plane ticket home. At the time of writing this she has precious little choice.

A Congolese woman who fled her home country after being brutally gang-raped. With no money and no English she sought refuge with the Congalese community in the UK and ‘paid’ for shelter and food with her body. When she resisted one night, she was deliberately burned with an iron and thrown out on the streets.

A Moroccan woman who is almost eight months pregnant who was admitted to hospital with a threatened miscarriage after a brutal beating from her husband. She has nowhere to go except back to him when she is discharged and no means for which to pay for the hospital bill. Futilely, The doctors have advised complete bed rest and as little stress as possible until she gives birth.

The fate of these women hangs on the kindness of strangers. Whilst not knocking what provision is found – it is simply not acceptable that some women have human rights and others don’t. To paraphrase the Bard – when you cut them, they also bleed.

Shea // Posted 22 April 2008 at 4:33 pm

I don’t understand what you mean by “regularised”. He had access to the health service whilst under “limited leave to remain” and it in no way impacted on his settlement visa. But its an aside to a more important issue.

I can’t believe the social services in the Pakistani woman’s case are willing to look after the children but not the mother. Do they actually believe that sending her back to a country with an appalling human rights record and separating her from her children permenantly is the best way to go? Actually I can believe it, that is the most depressing part.

Spicy // Posted 22 April 2008 at 6:06 pm

I don’t understand what you mean by “regularised”.

In your original post you stated that your husband was given limited leave to remain (i.e. his position was regularised – settlement is the next stage). The women being discussed in this post do not have ‘leave to remain’ 9limited or indefinite) which is precisely why they have ‘no recourse’. The first hurdle is for them to ‘prove’ the abuse to avoid breaching the ‘two year rule’. the second hurdle is to make an application for leave to remain. Until they have this, they will have ‘no recourse’ which as well as welfare benefits, also prevents them using public services such as the NHS and social housing.

The case of the Pakistani woman is an all too common a response from Social Services – technically they have a legal duty of care towards the children but not the mother and whilst a few humane Social Services interpret their duty to mean that it is in the best interests of the child to keep them with their mother, all too often they make the offer of taking the children into care (or also not uncommonly, giving them to the abuser as this is a cheaper option than care and after all – he was ‘only’ violent to her, he may be a good father )

And yes – it is terribly terribly depressing. And unjust. And shameful.

Annika // Posted 22 April 2008 at 7:51 pm

This is something I see and deal with on a daily basis in the organisation I work for. Trying to get emergency accomodation for a woman with no recourse is a nightmare. SOME refugees will take a woman with no recourse, but only one woman, two if you are lucky. This is because refugees also depend on housing benefit in order to offer their services, and if a woman isn’t entitled to any money, most refuges are unable to take her. Things are sometimes better if the woman has children, as Social Services will (sometimes) pay for the accomodation for the children, but not the mother. Social Services aren’t always helpful though, I know of an instance where they told a woman that they would take the children, and pay for her ticket back to her country. It disgusts me, really it does. Women with no recourse have so many barriers in accessing services, I think people can be very ignorant when it comes to them. They are women experiencing domestic violence, regardless of which country they came from. Some of these women are told by the perpetrators that nobody will help them, so many don’t ask for help because they assume that it isn’t there. Help is there, but not enough. There are so many barriers in place, when I get that call on helpline from a woman with no recourse, its hard knowing that I may be unable to find her accommodation. Thats the hardest thing.

james // Posted 22 April 2008 at 7:51 pm

Spicy – re. the hospital bills. Is is really that much of an issue? The NHS can’t sue them for money they don’t have, so they’re not being made worse off than they already are. I also wonder if they women’s husbands aren’t liable for the bill, because of their marital obligation to maintain their spouse.

Realistically, we should reform immigration law to stop this from happening. There is no reason we should be letting men go and buy glorified mail-order brides and bring them into the country. It’s totally unsuprising these totally dependent women end up being abused.

verve // Posted 26 April 2008 at 9:43 pm

Spicy is wrong, I am sorry to say.

Temporary and brief recourse to public funds is permitted. ( I was using NHS from the first month I was here, before getting ANY status apart from a fiancee). Look up HO application forms for indefinite leave to remain.

Also, I was able to get legal aid, however small amount it was ( two hours with a family lawyer).I was on a temporary leave to remain then.

I tend to agree with james.

They should either abolish these probationary two years ( I suppose it will take some additional screening as two WHO they are actually letting into the country as a spouse or fiancee) or stop spouses from other countries coming here based solely on their relationship altogether.

Having read Annika’s comments I am glad I didn’t go through with the court case against my husband.

When that happened to me, the police chucked me out of our marital home and left me out in the street.

With regards to victim getting an indefinite leave automatically. HO asks for what seems a truckload of paperwork and, from my experience, neither CPS nor police are willing to provide any paperwork, untill the end of the court case anyway. And it takes months and you still have to survive somehow and in the meantime your husband files for divorce and in this case your application made after that will surely be rejected.

A HO woman informed me when I telephoned them to enquire about my circumstances, that as “I am taking my husband to court over the probationary period, I will be expected to leave the country”. It was as blunt as that. Year 2006.

ashley // Posted 24 October 2008 at 9:32 pm

thanks for all the mail,i am Nigerian and just got a spouse visa also no recourse to public funds but am so scared

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