MP and council leader act to help victims of domestic violence

December 1, 2008 12:05 PM
Amnesty International rally

Ian Nimmo-Smith speaks at the Amnesty International rally with David Howarth

Cambridge MP David Howarth and city council leader, Ian Nimmo-Smith pledged their support to the fight against domestic violence at an Amnesty International rally in the city on Saturday.

They spoke out against government rules which mean immigrant women trapped in violent marriages cannot seek safety in refuges.

"Every day we allow this situation to continue is another day more women are going to be attacked," said Mr Howarth. "These women are in danger of violence and in danger of losing their lives. The government must get on with dealing with this issue and solving it quickly."

Amnesty International's Stop Violence Against Women group is fighting for women living in Britain on temporary or spousal visas to have the right to ask for help from the public purse.

At the moment, although they could be suffering from the most degrading and life-threatening violence within their marriages, they are not allowed to seek safety in a refuge and have no recourse to public funds.

Under the law, refuges can only accept women who are in receipt of housing benefit and have to turn away immigrant women to face either further violence at home or destitution.

Cllr Nimmo-Smith told rally supporters that he would work with Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to find out the scale of the problem in the city.

"It is a scandal that authorities have to abide by the repressive regulations drawn up by this government when we know extremely vulnerable people are at risk," he said. "The interpretation of these regulations has not been published by the government and there is no official guidance as to how local councils are supposed to implement this law.

"People caught within the No Recourse to Public Funds trap are given draconian advice by the Home Office's UK Border Agency and the firm impression that they will not be given any help at all. However we can, and do, direct them to women's refuges, police and social services."

Mr Howarth and Cllr Nimmo-Smith signed the group's petition calling for a change in the law.

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