Reform of Immigration Rules Needed to Protect Migrant Women from Domestic Violence

5 Mar 2012

Nine Irish NGOs have united as part of The Coalition on Domestic Violence to host a number of events to explore the effects of domestic violence on migrant women in Ireland.

By now, we hope that you have already received invitations to these events:

Roundtable Discussion on Monday 5th of March 2012: Full details here. A special briefing for busy politicians and journalists, on Tuesday 6th of March, from 12.30 to 2pm, in Buswell's Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

The Coalition believes that Ireland should introduce a legal provision to allow non-Irish women to safely and expeditiously remove themselves from situations of domestic abuse. Currently, if a woman enters the State on the basis of her relationship with a spouse or partner, she remains dependent on him for her permission to remain here. In cases where such women are victims of domestic violence, there is no provision to allow them to become independent of their abusive spouse or partner. As a result, many women and their children remain trapped in abusive and violent homes in Ireland.

The events feature keynote speaker Pragna Patel, the co-founder of Southall Black Sisters, which was the organisation that spearheaded reform of the process in the UK. Until recently, UK law mirrored that in Ireland. Amnesty International's website has more information about this here.

The coalition believes that the Irish government should act quickly to learn from our neighbours and put in place provisions to protect the human rights of migrant women by allowing them to break the cycle of abuse and remove themselves and their children from violent homes.

Sinéad Harrison of Women's Aid stated that "The daily experience of the organisations represented in the Coalition of assisting women forced by immigration policy to remain living with their abusers provides heartbreaking evidence of the immediate need for change. Unfortunately, all too often, we come across situations where, even when the woman has built up the courage to leave an abusive home, she is forced to return due to an inability to access support services for herself and often, her children."

Catherine Cosgrave, Solicitor with the Immigrant Council of Ireland said, "While the Minister for Justice and Equality often responds humanely and exercises discretion in granting residence permits to migrant women leaving abusive relationships, this is only done on a case by case basis at the Minister's absolute discretion. These decisions are made without any clear administrative guidelines. Ireland needs a statutory provision for the granting of an independent residency permit to bring the law in line with what is now the recognised international position."

The member organisations of the Coalition on Domestic Violence are: Longford Womens' Link, Sonas, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, AkiDwA, the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, Womens' Aid, and Doras Luimní. Representatives of any of the member organisations would be happy to speak with you Carol, or to provide any further information to you about this.

Any of the members of the coalition would be happy to speak to you about the issues in advance of these events, and in the lead-up to International Women's Day on the 8th of March.

To see the submission made to the Oireachtas Justice Committee by Women's Aid on domestic violence and immigration click here