Commission welcomes court ruling in domestic violence case

Published: 28 May 2016

Update: The Court of Session today (17 February 2017) denied the Home Office's appeal of this ruling.

Spouses of refugees should be given the same rights and protection under the Domestic Violence Concession (DVC) when they leave an abusive marriage as spouses of British citizens and settled persons, the Court of Session ruled today.

The successful ruling in the case A v Secretary of State for the Home Department, in which the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland intervened, challenged the immigration rule that excludes spouses of refugees from using the DVC.

Commenting in response to the ruling, Lynn Welsh, EHRC Scotland Head of Legal, said:

“The safety of these vulnerable women was put at risk by the current policy of the UK government. We welcome today’s decision and encourage the Home Office to review the policy carefully in terms of its impact on victims of domestic violence from different countries.”  

Sarah Crawford Solicitor, Legal Services Agency said:

“It is accepted that women who have experienced violence should not be expected to stay in an abusive relationship. Women married to refugees should not therefore also be expected to stay in an abusive relationship due to a change made to immigration rules with no apparent consideration of their position. This is unnecessary and unjust, and the court has recognised this.

“We are therefore delighted with this decision, and hope this will result in a change of the Immigration Rules to provide spouses of refugees with the same protection as that afforded to spouses of British citizens and settled persons. We believe that victims of domestic violence are put at great risk as a result of the way the Immigration Rules currently operate.”

Ends

Notes to editors

  • In 2005 the government introduced a 5 year leave to remain rule for refugees. They were no longer considered to be ‘settled persons’ for the purposes of the DVC. The consequence was that spouses (mainly women) were forced to choose between remaining in a violent relationship to retain their immigration status and have access to public services or leave the marriage and be faced with deportation and no public funds.
  • The Court of Session ruled that the exclusion of spouses of refugees from the DVC rule was discriminatory and could not be justified and it quashed the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse Mrs A’s application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

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