Spouses and partners of UK residents who are forced to flee their relationships as a result of domestic violence will be able to access vital support services, Home Secretary Theresa May announced today.
At present some spouses are forced to stay in abusive relationships because they are in the country on a spousal visa and have ‘no recourse to public funds’ meaning they are unable to access support services during the two year probationary period.
Following a successful pilot project the plans announced today mean that these victims will be able to access services to ensure they are not forced to remain in violent relationships. Access will be for a strictly limited period while the victim gathers evidence and makes a claim for residence based on the domestic violence and UK Border Agency considers the application.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: ‘We are clear that no one should be forced to stay in an abusive relationship. Earlier this week I set out detailed plans for tackling all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, in this country and overseas.
‘We have always said we will support the small number of spouses who must leave their relationship and are unable to access any support services. However we are very clear there will be tough checks in place to ensure this system is not abused by those seeking to stay in the country where they do not have the right to.’
Victims of domestic violence in the country on a spousal visa are currently able to access some support services via a pilot programme - known as the Sojourner Project - which has been underway since November 2009. Between December 2009 and January 2011, 587 women and 358 children have been supported through the pilot. The permanent plan will come into effect next year.
Notes to editors
1. The Immigration Rules makes provision for spouses (including registered civil partners and same sex partners and unmarried partners) of British citizens and persons settled here who have been subjected to domestic violence during the probationary period to apply for indefinite leave to remain as the victim of domestic violence. They do not currently have access to public funds and this can make access to refuges problematic.
2. For further information contact the Home Office press office 020 7035 3535.