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Foreign Spouses need protection from abuse before its late

15 June, 2010

By Amjad Malik


It pains me to admit that despite living in the mother of all democracies Domestic violence affects the lives of thousands and society has long tolerated it or ignored it considering it a non issue. Each year, about 150 people are killed by a current or former partner, and one in four women and one in six men will suffer domestic violence at some point in their matrimonial lives, and foreign spouses are prime victims due to lack of language, awareness and restricted ability to access services. 

UK authorities need to take a serious note of the plight of Foreign Brides who fall victims of domestic violence and severe abuse at the hands of their British spouses, and their extended families and in some cases have lost lives and in another seriously injured including raped and or tortured. Pakistani as well as female organisations are calling for a permanent residency rights to start with to avoid abuse & domestic violence in UK. In line with those efforts APL has also written to British Prime Minister, David Cameron seeking his intervention at this continued abuse.

In the last 2 years of nearly one thousand applications to stay from South Asian women claiming abuse were made, and only four hundred and forty, were successful. 440 were granted and 540 applications were refused for lack of evidence. Latest study into domestic violence shows that south Asian women are the least willing to seek help, and abuse remains undetected, and unreported most of the time. We have no figures to show as to how many are returned silently where spouse uses its position of authority to seek voluntary removal. Women who do not seek help may have different reasons, including lack of understanding of language, knowledge & awareness how to avail services available to them in public domain. Or maybe one is in a situation where every where the victim goes her abuser is accompanying with her everywhere, and due to fear her opportunity to disclose the abuse is not only compromised but jeopardised without anyone noticing it. There is a lack of service, awareness and a political will to make them aware of the possible pit falls.

Foreign nationals living in the UK whose marriages break down are allowed to stay in the country if they can prove they have been victims of domestic violence. Easier said than done, as it is often felt that victims of abuse are unable to prove that they are victims by way of providing prescribed evidence. They are reluctant to seek community and or support of police, social services, and GP whilst they are at their spouse and or in laws, however by the time they leave the place of abuse it is often too late. Asian females are very reluctant to go to police and or court because of fear of reprisals at the hands of their spouse well knit family, their meagre economic circumstances back home or due to fear of losing community support whatever little they have.

Ideally, the foreign spouses must be allowed to join their husbands on indefinite leave to remain where no provisions of public funds are made for them, It is a similar position where someone invites their elderly parent under Para 317 HC 395 and the parent gets indefinite leave to start with a caveat that he or she may not seek public benefits and applies for naturalisation after 5 years of continued stay in UK. That is an ideal solution to curb the mind set of using its extreme superior position to unleash hell on the visiting foreign brides and mistreat them.

However if that system is not possible then the Govt must consider a proposal where foreign spouses are allowed to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in their own rights if their husbands do not support their application after 5 years of stay especially if they are not involved in any crime and do not pose any threat to public and meet general rules for settlement; that will take away the driving power of British partner to abuse their foreign spouse and enslave them with a fear and favour to support them in future for their indefinite leave to remain application. If that power which is qua sai power having a potential to fall for an abuse is returned to the state to decide, it will address the root cause of the said abuse.

Lawyers and NGO’s have requested the Prime Minister of Great Britain, to intervene to consider the plight of those being abused silently and proposal to root out such abuse is proportionate and reasonable meeting the standards and ultimate objective, to defeat domestic violence, torture and hidden abuse.

If a spouse is fallen a victim of domestic violence, they must be allowed to stay in this country with the available prescribed evidence within 2 years and without pre requisite evidence after 5 years (if the required evidence of injunction, conviction and or caution against their spouse as evidence is not available). that will be a position akin to naturalisation application where one may apply after 3 years if husband supports, and 5 years if they are applying in their own right; In this situation state will take away the driving power of British partner to abuse their foreign spouse and return it to the state to decide which will address the root cause of the said abuse. It is also worth mentioning that victims of domestic violence can be avoided if they are provided at British High Commission some or part of the knowledge about a) language support, b) services which will be available to them in case they become victim of violence, rape, and abuse c) procedure how to access those services for which British Council may be used to offer initial advice and guidance to potential settlers. Community, mosque and gender based groups and high commission support is vital too to welcome and support new arrivals.

It is for the British Govt. That in order to remain compliant to their commitment of Article 3 of the European Convention in Human Rights 1950, rules are made to avoid, ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ at the hands of British spouses and initiate a debate to how to reform the existing system, put in place workable safeguards and create awareness for spouses who become a victim so that they could be aware of their rights, prevent abuse before it happens, access services when it is needed and have legislative assurance that even if the marriage is not working they could apply in their own rights after probationary period (2- to 5 years). Making English language mandatory for entry may be a good starting point, but when infra structure is not in place, the youth will start going astray if the situation reaches to a deadlock, no marriages as well as no safe guards. So with language, there must be language and information provider centres too and British Council is an ideal platform to start with. We need actions from British Govt. Than words, and phrases as for votes they may offer ‘amnesty’ but in Govt they may even consider scrapping ‘human rights Act 1998. 

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