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Making MARAC’s Work Better for Migrant Communities

We continue to learn and pick up new information every time we go to a conference or event.

A Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a local, multi agency victim-focussed meeting where information is shared on the highest risk cases of domestic violence and abuse between different statutory and voluntary sector agencies.  Typically Migrant/Refugee focus has largely been on those from outside the EU/EEA who are seeking asylum having fled from wars, persecution, etc. Whilst this conference had some reference to these migrants the emphasis was on helping EU migrants.

Ipswich is one of 2 local authorities that has seen an influx of 1,500 Polish people since 2011.  Ipswich and Norwich also have the largest influx of migrants from the EEA – 4,500 have come to each.  In addition Ipswich has absorbed 700 Portuguese migrants in the same time period and a large number of Romanians and Lithuanians.  The town is also a dispersal area for those seeking Refugee Status form outside the EU. These statistics are based on National Insurance numbers so do not include non-working spouses/partners or children. Domestic Violence is at least as prevalent in these countries as it is in the UK but not all are able to get support for this issue.

Domestic Violence is not even a term that is used or understood in many countries across the world and therefore is not easily translatable. One of the speakers from INTRAN talked about how difficult it can be to persuade women from another country to open up about their problems even when the perpetrator had severely harmed them.  Translators called to these situations by the police or health/social services should be professional, well qualified in order to establish trust.

Melanie Partridge from The Home Office spoke about how the UK can help support victims of Domestic Violence who have come from the EU/EEA.  Currently those who come over to work (men and women) initially have 3 months residency and only have extended rights after that time if they are financially self-sufficient, employed, self-employed or are actively seeking work.  Then when they have been here for 5 years they have the same rights as British citizens. Melanie also spoke about the complexities of Destitution Domestic Violence Concessions for Foreign Nationals who are on a time limited spousal/partner visa. Funds are available for up to 3 months but they need to give evidence of DV.  She claimed The Home Office are now working more closely with Social Services.

Bal Kaur Howard is the Suffolk Police Project Officer for honour based abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.  She told us that 20 women per day arrive in the UK from the Indian sub-continent on a spousal visa – usually indefinite leave (often marriages of convenience/forced marriage).  They have no access to public funds for 33 months.  When they find themselves victims of DV it is likely that the Health Services are most likely to have first contact with them.  Why do they not go to the Police or Social Services:

  • Shame on family/dishonour
  • Can’t go back home for same reasons
  • Mother-in-Law holds the passport as a ‘weapon’ of threat (ie. No control over their own residency)
  • Sometimes find that their visa is ‘visitor’ and not ‘indefinite leave’ which gives them no rights. Situation can be one of being ‘trafficked’
  • Can be accused of suffering from mental health
  • Language barrier
  • Police in their own country not to be trusted so concerned it is the same in the UK
  • Lack of understanding of British society
  • Are told DV is justified on the basis of their religion (Note: All religions are against DV)

Fiona Costello of GYROS (a support charity for people from the EU/EEA who are victims of DV and also some from other parts of the world) operates in Gt Yarmouth where they see 50-70 people per week and they also operate in Lowestoft, but unfortunately not in Ipswich.  Clients may be from a country that has no refuges eg. Latvia so they are unaware of help in that form.  However, they only qualify for access to a refuge if they qualify for housing benefit!  So most often they have to return to their violent partner.  If there is a child who is also at risk it may be that social services can intervene because of their duty of care to the child.  GYROS are accredited for providing immigration advice, have a complex case team, have undergone cultural sensitivity training and can give referrals to specialist organisations.

Amanda Mures, from the Norfolk Police, works with minority communities to overcome barriers to disclosure. She spoke about the ‘Trailblazer’ project that successfully communicated with women from Poland, Russia, Lithuania and Latvia.  Her concern was that women arrive in the UK on a spouse visa and know nothing about 999, 111, NHS, Women’s Aid/Refuges, who or where to go to for information.  They may be familiar with and have suffered DV but do not realise it is not acceptable here and there are laws to deal with it.  She obtained funding to produce communication material in the form of a poster and leaflet that was available in all the languages of the countries above.  The translation was undertaken by INTRAN who act as interpreters for DV victims to ensure it was accurate and meaningful.  The poster was placed in libraries, doctors’ surgeries, public toilets, shopping centres, hospitals, in community buildings, schools, colleges, universities, and at the Police Public Enquiry Office window.  Another leaflet was produced for children – she worked with the NSPCC with this that was about feeling safe and where to go for help.  It built on the ‘Pants Campaign – Pants are Private’.  In addition Training Workshops were run for Police Officers, City College Safeguarding Staff, Children’s Services, Beauty Training Colleges – the latter on the basis that people spend more time and chat with their hairdresser and person who does their nails than they do with their doctor.  Drop In sessions are now being undertaken. Could Suffolk be persuaded to do the same? We will write to our Police and Crime Commissioner about this – after all, the work has been done.