THEN STEP UP AND SIGN THE PLEDGE
BRUSSELS, 22 February 2017 – Violence against women in Europe is a widespread, but under-reported, phenomenon. Two out of three women victimised by physical or sexual violence in the EU did not contact the police or any other service after a serious incident of violence, according to a 2014 study*.
There are many reasons a woman may not come forward to report violence or to find support. For women who are undocumented or have a precarious migration status, seeking help in most cases will likely lead towards detention and deportation.
This was the case for Maria, an indigenous woman from Peru who lived in poverty and endemic violence. Maria migrated to Spain to look for work to send money to her two children, who stayed with their grandmother. In Spain she worked as a nanny, in highly exploitative conditions while sending money to her family in Peru. Soon after she lost her job and met a man from the UK, who promised her a happy life. After they married, Maria moved to the UK, but her partner confiscated her passport and did not apply for her visa, leaving her undocumented. Her husband constantly threatened to denounce her to the immigration authorities and to take away their young daughter. After several years of enduring severe physical and psychological violence, Maria ran away. But she was terrified to report the violence and of being deported. She had no money and started to work cleaning offices in exploitative conditions for far less than the national minimum wage, because her employer knew she was undocumented. Eventually Maria was placed in a detention centre in the UK where she remains, and is suffering from severe depression.
“Situations like Maria’s are far too common, and result from policies that put the enforcement of immigration laws ahead of the protection and support of victims of crime. Such policies increase women’s risk of victimisation and remove consequences for perpetrators, inevitably frustrating any efforts to eradicate violence against women,“
– said Michele LeVoy, Director of PICUM.
Michael Zwart, Project leader undocumented communities of the Dutch National Police highlighted:
“The Dutch police have adopted an official national policy that allows people without identification papers to report a crime to the police, as a victim or witness, without fear of being arrested because they are undocumented. I urge other police forces to take such a victim-centered approach, realising that it’s the best way to preserve the trust and safety of our communities.”
“On the occasion of the European Day for Victims of Crime, we urge service providers, victim service organisations and law enforcement officials to take steps to ensure that all women can safely report violence and find support, regardless of their migration status,“
stated Rosa Logar, President and co-founder of WAVE.
If you believe that Maria and all women, regardless of their migration status, should be able to turn to the police and to service providers for help and for justice, then take action. Click here to sign our pledge and to find out what else you can do to make a difference.
*EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014), “Unreported violence against women masks true extent of the problem”.
WAVE Step Up! campaign website.
Web documentary about the realities of undocumented women in Europe here.
Strategies to End Double Violence Against Undocumented Women – Protecting Rights and Ensuring Justice, PICUM.