Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 52 organisations supporting women write to Priti Patel expressing profound concern about the devastating impact that the Nationality and Borders Bill will have on women and survivors of violence. The letter with the full list of signatories is available below.

This view is supported by leading barristers, Stephanie Harrison QC, Ubah Dirie, Emma Fitzsimons and Hannah Lynes of Garden Court Chambers, who state in advice published today that the Bill will “disproportionately adversely disadvantage women and girls” and that a number of measures within the Bill are incompatible with Home Office policy, UK case law and international standards on refugee protection and human rights, and therefore open to legal challenge. You can read the full legal opinion here.

Dear Home Secretary and Under-Secretary of State, 

Re: Cruel and discriminatory impact of the Nationality and Borders Bill on women and survivors of gender-based abuse

As organisations that support women and girls subject to abuse in the UK, we are writing to express our profound concern about the devastating impact that the Nationality and Borders Bill (the Bill) will have on women and survivors of violence.

We reject claims made by the Home Office that the Bill will assist women seeking safety. Instead, we submit that the Bill in its current form will cause serious harm to women,  greatly undermining the government’s efforts to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). 

Evidence indicates that many women who seek asylum in the UK have suffered sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, forced prostitution, female genital mutilation and domestic abuse. Whilst the Government and Home Office claim that addressing VAWG is a priority, they are pushing a Bill that will increase the risk of survivors being wrongly refused asylum, and therefore increase the likelihood of women being made vulnerable to further violence and abuse.

We are fundamentally opposed to the hostile sentiment of this Bill, which will prevent women from accessing protection. Particular provisions of concern include, but are not limited to:

  • The differentiated treatment in Clause 11, which will punish survivors based on the basis of their route to arrival in the UK and the point at which they claim asylum. This Clause flouts long-standing evidence about how difficult it is for women to disclose histories of violence and trauma, as recognised in existing Home Office policy. 
  • The reversal of fundamental legal standards relating to the ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ test (Clause 31), as well as the ‘particular social group’ definition (Clause 32), grounds in the UN Refugee Convention that survivors frequently rely on when making claims for protection.

Women for Refugee Women, along with 12 other VAWG organisations, raised serious concerns about the harmful impact of the Bill, via written evidence, to the Public Bill Committee, views that are supported by expert lawyers. The lack of detail in the government’s equality impact assessment on the Bill supports our assessment that the impact on women and survivors has been poorly considered. 

Many of our organisations spoke out against the deliberate exclusion of migrant women from protection in the Domestic Abuse Act. We are alarmed to see that the government is repeating this failure by once again excluding survivors of gender-based violence from safety, despite warnings from specialist women’s organisations. 

We urge the Home Office and the Government to listen to these warnings, to speak with women who have been forced to cross borders for safety, and rethink the Bill.  

Yours sincerely,

Alphonsine Kabagabo, Director, Women for Refugee Women

Andrea Simon, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition

Yasmin Rehman, CEO, Juno Women’s Aid

Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters

Gisela Valle, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service 

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director, FORWARD

Medina Johnson, Chief Executive, IRISi

Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO, Welsh Women’s Aid

Sarah Hill, CEO, Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS)

Judith Banjoko and Retna Thevarajah, Interim CEOs, Solace

Gudrun Burnet, CEO, Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse 

Estelle Du Boulay, Director, Rights of Women 

Michelle Blunsom, CEO, East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services 

Huda Jawad, Co-director, Musawah 

Jackie Suter, IRIS AE, RCT Domestic Abuse Services

Debbie Beadle, CEO, Cardiff Women’s Aid

Elaine Yates, CEO, Coventry Haven Women’s Aid

Baljit Banga, Executive Director, Imkaan

Sharon Erdman, CEO, RASASC Rape Crisis South London

Vicky Marsh, Co -Director, Safety4Sisters – North West

Jo Todd, CEO, Respect

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group

Management Committee, WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) Manchester

Harriet Wistrich, Director, Centre for Women’s Justice

Loraine Mponela, Chair, CARAG (Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group)

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO, Surviving Economic Abuse 

Jo Needham, IRIS Advocate, Aurora New Dawn

Donna Covey CBE, Chief Executive, AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)

Jayne Butler, CEO, Rape Crisis England & Wales 

Farah Nazeer, CEO, Women’s Aid Federation of England 

Diana Nammi, Executive Director, IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation 

​​Zlakha Ahmed, CEO, Apna Haq

Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO, Women’s Resource Centre

Halaleh Taheri, Executive Director, Middle Eastern Women & Society Organisation-MEWSo

Leni Morris, CEO, Galop

Yenny Tovar, Executive Director, Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA)

Alison Pickup, Director, Asylum Aid 

Kerry Smith, Chief Executive, Helen Bamber Foundation 

Tracey Fletcher, Interim CEO, Agenda

Natasha Rattu, Director, Karma Nirvana

Pankhuri Mehndiratta, Immigration Advisor, Ashiana Network

Sandy Brindley, Chief Executive, Rape Crisis Scotland

Ibtissam Al-Farah, Director, Development and Empowerment for Women’s Advancement (DEWA) Project 

Helen Voce, Chief Executive Officer, Nottingham Women’s Centre

Alison Moore, CEO, Refugee Women Connect

Ruth Davison, CEO, Refuge 

Sarah Taal, Director, Baobab Women’s Project CIC

Beth Ash, Trustee, Coventry Migrant Women’s Houses

Rosemary Crawley, on behalf of Women with Hope 

Liz Thompson, Director of External Relations, Safe Lives

Jeni Williams, Chair, Swansea Women’s Asylum and Refugee Support Group 

Florence Kahuro, Steering Committee, Sisters United