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Temporary migrants at risk from family violence – report

19 October 20170 comments

Women on temporary visas are vulnerable to family violence and only a fraction are accessing the services available to protect them, new research suggests.

The 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,” said the report, launched this week.

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

Prof Segrave said women on temporary migrant visa needed to be “empowered via increasing their confidence and knowledge regarding rights pertaining to migration status and family violence law and support provisions”.

“Migration status often adds a layer of complexity and, most often, uncertainty, for women,” she said.

Many women on temporary partner visas have the potential to be protected by the family violence provisions in the Migration Act that enable access to permanent residency if a relationship breaks down due to family violence, the report said.

But it detailed the limited number of applications to utilise the family violence provision.

The report lays the ground for an urgent review of how well this system is understood and the need to support specialised services that help access the services.

It also detailed the ways in which migration status ­- both for women whose visa is connected to the perpetrator/partner and for those whose visa is not connected to the perpetrator – is used as leverage in situations of family violence.

This includes situations where children are involved.

“If the victim-survivor has Australian citizen children, complex migration issues can arise with the potential for women to have to leave Australia while their children remain in the country,” Prof Segrave said.

“Threatening to take custody of dependant (Australian citizen) children if a victim-survivor leaves can be brought into sharp relief for women who believe their migration status will result in them having limited rights as mothers when they are also temporary non-citizens,” she said.

The report reviews of the forms of abuse experienced by women and argues for the need to broaden the definition of risk in the context of family violence to include trafficking or forms of ‘slavery’.

“There are important overlaps between family violence and situations that are akin to trafficking and slavery offences, as defined in the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995, including forced marriage, domestic servitude, human trafficking and other slavery-like situations,” Prof Segrave said.
“This report brings these situations to the fore and considers how Australia can move forward to better recognise and respond to the critical issues raised in this analysis,” she said.

Prof Segrave urged the federal government to recognise and support all victims of family violence equally “regardless of migration status or any other point of difference”.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist