The Domestic Violence Coalition has welcomed the publication of new guidelines by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), which contain information on dealing with cases where a person who is the victim of domestic violence wishes to obtain immigration status independent of their relationship with the perpetrator.
Commenting on the guidelines today (02.08.12), Brian Killoran of the Immigrant Council of Ireland - one of the member groups of the Domestic Violence Coalition - said: "We are aware of situations where the immigration status of a person is dependent on their continuing relationship with an abusive partner. As a result, the person experiencing violence can be unwilling or afraid to leave the abusive partner because it might impact on their ability to stay in Ireland. The vulnerability and uncertainty of someone in this situation cannot be understated.
"In publishing these guidelines, the INIS has responded to calls for clarification from the Domestic Violence Coalition, and we very much welcome this development. The guidelines provide much-needed clarity for victims of domestic violence and those who advocate on their behalf. This will go some way towards removing the element of control that can arise in an abusive relationship, where abusers often tell women they will be deported if they leave them.
"The publication of the guidelines sends a message to migrant victims of domestic violence that they have clear options, and should seek advice and support with the knowledge that there is a formal procedure in place that will inform their prospects of remaining in Ireland."
Mr. Killoran said that a number of issues remain to be resolved in relation to the new guidelines.
"We are still unclear as to the types of immigration status that will be issued to victims of domestic violence, and the rights and entitlements that these status types will give those who are in very vulnerable, dangerous situations," he said. "We would urge the INIS to positively use its discretion to grant an immigration status to victims of domestic violence that allows for clear access to the labour market and to emergency supports. In the past, we have found that the lack of clear guidance and direction has prevented some victims of domestic violence from accessing help."
Claire Cumiskey, Senior Legal Officer with Nasc - another member of the Domestic Violence Coalition - said the Coalition would continue to engage with the INIS to address some of the outstanding issues, in particular, the stated requirement that independent immigration status only applies when the parties are no longer living together as a family unit.
"The members of the Coalition are in direct contact with immigrants who are victims of domestic violence on a day-to-day basis," she said. "Drawing on their experiences and the challenges they face, we will continue to keep the INIS informed about how the guidelines can be enhanced and developed to ensure people have clarity about their rights and entitlements.
"The Domestic Violence Coalition would now call upon Department of Social Protection to follow the lead of the INIS, and issue similar guidelines on their policies for supporting migrant victims of domestic violence to access emergency support."
The Domestic Violence Coalition is comprised of: the Immigrant Council of Ireland; Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre; Women's Aid; Sonas Housing; Doras Luimní; Longford Women's Link; AkiDwA; and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service.
Contact: Martina Quinn / Cliona Doyle, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-6522033 / 087-4116081