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I Have Rights Newsletter July 2011

I Have Rights Newsletter July 2011

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IKWRO's summer newsletter. Focuses on women's rights in the UK's asylum and immigration systems. Guest articles from Rights of Women and Asylum Aid.
IKWRO's summer newsletter. Focuses on women's rights in the UK's asylum and immigration systems. Guest articles from Rights of Women and Asylum Aid.

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08/24/2011

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I have RIGHTS newsletter, July 2011
 
Letter from the editor
Dear readers,The UK immigration system throws up majorchallenges for women fleeing violence. More thana fifth of the women IKWRO worked with in 2010needed help with applying for asylum or indefiniteleave to remain in the UK.
That’s why we’ve made
violence against women, asylum and immigrationthe theme of this newsletter.Our first article explains recent changes to the norecourse to public funds rule announced in thenew government action plan on violence againstwomen and girls. In our second article CateBriddick, Senior Legal Officer at Rights of Women,discusses their limitations, particularly the factthat they could be undermined by proposals toabolish legal aid for immigration cases.IKWRO has many clients who are seeking asylumand in our last newsletter we covered
Asylum Aid’s
new report, Unsustainable, which charts thedisproportionately high refusal rates and highsuccess rates on appeal for women asylumapplicants. This quarter we have included anarticle on this by Asylum Aid
’s
Public Affairs OfficerRussell Hargrave.We have good news to share too. IKWRO hasreceived funds from the EC Daphne Programme IIIfor three new projects. We have appointed sixnew staff members who will significantly scale upour work. These new funds are much needed aslast year we lost funding from two sources. Whilewe recently learned that funding we receive fromLondon Councils through the Women TogetherAgainst Abuse project is safe, we remainconcerned by how the cuts are affecting thewomen we work with, as English classes and otherlife-line services are slashed.Please feel free to share our newsletter and asalways, if you have any comments or would like toget involved in producing our newsletter ourcontact details are on the last page.With thanks and best wishes,Diana Nammi, IKWRO Director
I
have RIGHTS
Newsletter of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
 May 2011
ContentsNo recourse to public funds: campaign victory
Fionnuala Murphy 2
Challenges ahead
 –
the domestic violencerule and no recourse to public funds
 Cate Briddick 3
Getting it right first time: women and asylum
Russell Hargreaves 4
IKWRO news
5
 Campaigns news
6
 International news
7
Research news
8
 
 
I have RIGHTS newsletter, July 2011
 
PLEASE NOTE: ROW
’s advice lines
have changed!
From 1 April Rights of Women have the followingadvice lines operating at the following times:
Family law advice line
 020 7251 6577 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone): Monday 11am-1pm, Tuesday andWednesday 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm, Thursday 7pm-9pm and Friday 12noon-2pm
Criminal law advice line
 020 7251 8887 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone): Tuesday 11am-1pm and Thursday 2pm-4pm.
Immigration and asylum law advice line
 020 7490 7689 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone): Monday 2pm-4pm and Wednesday 11am-1pm.Please amend your records and website accordingly.Flyers about
ROW’s
services, legal guides andhandbooks for women are available fromwww.rightsofwomen.org.uk or in hardcopy byemailing info@row.org.uk. 
No recourse to public funds news
People who enter the UK on certain types of visa have to prove that during their stay, they will be able tosupport themselves without recourse to public funds. During their time here, the no recourse to public funds(NRPF) rule then prevents them fromaccessing state benefits, for examplehousing benefit or income support. TheNRPF rule includes people on spousalvisas. Until relatively recently, it meantthat women who came to the UK to joina husband or partner and ended upfacing domestic violence were unable toget state funding to cover their space ina refuge or other safe housing. Theywould either have to pay for itthemselves, or persuade the refugeprovider or their local authority to coverthe cost. This left many women unableto access protection.
How has this changed recently?
In late 2009 the government began funding a scheme called the Sojourner project. Through Sojourner, womenon spousal visas can get funding to stay in a refuge for a limited period of time while they applied for indefiniteleave to remain in the UK in their own right.The Sojourner Project has provided a vital lifeline for over 1000 women, but it was only a pilot scheme and itsfuture was always uncertain. Then in March the government promised that from next April, all women onspousal visas who are fleeing domestic violence will be given access to benefits while their indefinite leave toremain claim is being considered. Alongside thiscommitment, the government has promised thatfunding for the Sojourner project will be extendeduntil the new system comes into force. They havealso agreed to increase the timeframe within whichwomen are expected to put together and submittheir applications from 20 working days to 30. Thesedevelopments are cause for celebration indeed.
So does that mean the problem’s solved now?
 
No. The recent changes are very good news, butone remaining issue is that women who haveentered the UK on other types of visa are excluded.We think that all women who experience violenceshould have access to protection, and we willcontinue campaigning for the new rules to beextended to women on other types of visa. Also, the
government’s
recent Legal Aid, Sentencing andPunishment Bill, which would abolish legal aid forimmigration cases, would have an extremelynegative impact. Cate Briddick from Rights of Women discusses this issue below.
 
 
I have RIGHTS newsletter, July 2011
 
The domestic violence rule and access to legal aid
By Cate Briddick, Rights of Women
A person can be granted leave (permission to be inthe UK) through a spouse or partner visa if theyare married to, in a civil partnership or cohabitingwith someone who is a UK citizen or has indefiniteleave to remain (ILR) here. Successful applicantsare given two years leave to remain in the UK,after which they can apply for ILR and after that, if they wish, UK citizenship.A woman whose relationship breaks down duringthe two year probationary period because of domestic violence is entitled to ILR under thedomestic violence rule (set out in paragraph 289 of the Immigration Rules) if she satisfies threeconditions:1.
 
She has been given permission (i.e. aspousal or partner visa) to remain in theUK as the spouse, civil partner or partnerof a person present and settled in the UK;2.
 
She was in a continuing relationship withher spouse, civil partner or partner (thismeans that they lived together when shearrived in the UK or was given her visa);and3.
 
She is able to provide evidence that thisrelationship broke down permanentlybefore the end of the probationary periodbecause of domestic violence.In order to make a successful application anapplicant has to complete an 18 page form (a SET(DV) form) and provide evidence of the violenceshe has experienced, evidence that herrelationship was continuing at the beginning of theprobationary period and a letter or witnessstatement explaining that her relationship hasbroken down permanently because of domesticviolence. Legal aid is particularly important in suchcases, as women with an insecure immigrationstatus are often financially destitute or on a lowincome, and are less likely to be able to gather theevidence they need, complete the form andrepresent themselves. As Table 1 shows,applications under the domestic violence rule alsohave very high success rates on appeal, whichsuggests that the UK Borders Agency does not
Table 1
 
Date % of applications under DVrule rejected by UKBA thatwere successful on appeal
Jan-Mar 2009 55%Apr -Jun 2009 64%Jul-Sep 2009 61%Oct-Dec 2009 63%Jan-Mar 2010 69%Apr - Jun 2010 63%Jul-Sep 2010 64%always make decisions correctly. This makes theneed for professional legal support even greater.However, the
government’s new
Legal Aid,Sentencing and Punishment Bill will remove legalaid from all immigration law cases. Rights of Women is very concerned that without legal aidmany women will be unable to resolve theirimmigration status and will be forced to remain inabusive relationships.Access to legal advice and representation isparticularly important for women on the SojournerProject as they have to prepare and submit theirapplication
 –
along with the requisite evidence -within six weeks. Women who may not speakEnglish well and who are traumatised as a result of violence already struggle with this timescale. It isdifficult to see how they will manage to completetheir applications on time without legal aid.Cuts to legal aid will affect not only the womenmaking applications, but also the organisationsthat support them. They will also undermine the
Home Office’s commitment in their recent action
plan to ensure that women who come to the UKon spousal visas can get protection from violence.You can get more information about the domesticviolence rule and legal aid onwww.rightsofwomen.org.uk,and can support thecampaign to save legal aid by writing to your MP. 

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