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Migrant women have little recourse in the face family violence

30 April 20180 comments

Migrant women coming to Australia on partner or dependent visas are suffering serious domestic violence often in silence as threats of deportation are used to control them, according to new research.

And many suffer in silence as threats of deportation are used to control them.

A study by an ACT women’s refuge has found that to invoke domestic violence protection provisions, the victim must first be eligible under the legislation and then must prove that the relationship was real and have evidence of the violence.

At Beryl Women’s Refuge, in the ACT, more than 40 per cent of refuge clients are from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and the majority of those are seeking shelter to escape domestic violence.

Zouheir Dalati is the Migration Clinic co-ordinator at Legal Aid ACT.

Mr Dalati and migration agent Vanessa Burn created a booklet titled, ‘Stay Here Stay Safe’ to be distributed to organisations and individuals in the Canberra community. The booklet outlines how victims can access the exemption provisions with information that might help to allow them to stay in the country.

“The brochure is intended to support caseworkers assisting clients to access the family violence exemptions of the Migration Act because we believe that clients in this situation won’t have access to migration agents and lawyers in this space soon,” Mr Dalati said.

“I would say one in three referrals to the Migration Clinic are somehow related to family violence provisions and partner visas.”

“Often we deal with women where we end up knowing that this woman never left the house in two or three years, being locked up for sometimes all of those years with no interaction with the outside and suddenly she is on her own, needing to deal with this complex issue.”

“If the department believes there wasn’t any kind of domestic violence in the relationship then unfortunately she will be deported.”

A spokesperson for the refuge said there was a lack of awareness around what these women were facing and how to help.

“These women have particular unique complexities that are different from other women escaping domestic violence,” the spokesperson said.

“There is an added layer that they have to contend with, particularly the threat of returning to another country where it is a male dominated society. These women are often not only risking their lives, they’re risking the lives of the family back in their home country by bringing shame on them in their community.”

“This is added to their isolation, the fact most women have English as a second language, and the difficulties they have in accessing services,” she said.

A report by Monash University Associate Professor Marie Segrave says that based on the estimate that one in four women experience family violence, and the annual average approval of 36,4503 temporary partner visa applications from female applicants, it could be assumed that at least 9112 women across Australia who are on temporary partner visas are experiencing family violence.

“In 2015-16, there were 529 family violence provision applications made by women on such visas, of which 403 were successful,” the report said.

“This suggests that there is much to be done in relation to understanding women’s experiences and situations, as well as the extent to which victim-survivors who are temporary migrants are aware of their rights and the support agencies that are able to assist them to access these rights,” it said.

Titled ‘Temporary migration and family violence: An analysis of victimisation, vulnerability and support’, the report is the first major study in Australia to examine the link between migration status and family violence.

It follows Australia’s first ever leadership course in the prevention of violence against women (PVAW) for CALD communities delivered by AMES Australia last year.





Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist