The Home Office has just published new improved guidance on how it should respond when someone seeking asylum is experiencing domestic abuse and needs safe accommodation and support from the Home Office. It replaces previous guidance. It is relevant to all asylum-seeking survivors of domestic abuse in the UK.
You can find the new guidance here.
Please also see the ASAP and Refugee Council briefing for an overview of the new guidance below (and look out for a more detailed ASAP factsheet on the guidance coming soon.)
As many of you know, asylum-seeking women and their children can face huge difficulties in trying to access safe accommodation and appropriate support services when trying to leave an abusive situation. For lots of women it’s incredibly difficult to disclose this information and requires great courage to do so. It’s critical that, when they make a decision to leave the situation, they receive the support they need and can access services that help them to stay safe and recover from their experiences.
The new guidance is a real step forward in achieving this.
- One of the key changes is the Home Office commitment to funding refuge spaces for asylum-seeking women. Until now, it has been very unusual for the Home Office to agree to fund a refuge space and most women have been ‘re-dispersed’ from abusive situations to other housing within the asylum support system, without any consideration of their need for support services.
- Of course, not all women will want (or will be able) to access a refuge space. It may not be the right choice for them or there may not be a space available. Crucially, the guidance commits the Home Office to listening to, and acting on, the views of women, and the advice workers working closely with them, about what constitutes a safe accommodation option for them, including having access to the relevant support services.
- The guidance has been expanded from the old version to include women who need to access the asylum support system from an abusive situation. It recognises the importance of a quick response which prioritises safety.
The improvements contained in the new guidance are the result of sustained and persistent work by Refugee Council and the women’s project at ASAP. They produced a report (Women seeking asylum: safe from harm in the UK?) last year that looked at women’s safety in the asylum support system and are pleased to see the Home Office acting on recommendations that came out of that report.
In order for the new guidance to make a real difference to women, the right people need to know about it and it needs to be implemented effectively, so please do share this among your networks so that services are aware of the new guidance, particularly any local domestic abuse services.
Refugee Council are keen to monitor the impact of the new guidance and feedback to the Home Office on this, so welcome your views and experiences of using the new guidance when supporting survivors. To submit please email Andy Hewett at [email protected] should you have any feedback.