Step Up Migrant Women

The Step Up Migrant Women Campaign was established by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and is currently supported by 38 organisations from the women and migrant sectors (funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation via LAWRS). The project and campaign aim to build a strong evidence base working with women with insecure migrant status who have experienced Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and who reside in London. Led by migrant and black and minority ethnic (BME) women, the project and campaign propose to increase awareness about the challenges faced by migrant women survivors of VAWG when seeking help from statutory and voluntary organisations, to influence key decision-makers at London and national levels. This is to ensure that the rights of victims of VAWG take precedence over control of immigration status so they are able to report violence safely and obtain support without fear of destitution/ detention/deportation. It also aims to influence the main organisations and local authorities working in the field so that they provide appropriate services and support to migrant women survivors of VAWG. 

As part of this project, I conducted research to provide the evidence base underpinning the campaign working with women migrants who experienced insecure immigration status and gender-based violence. It entailed a survey with 50 migrant women, most of whom used services of specialist migrant organisations as well as semi-structured interviews with 11 migrant women with current or previous insecure immigration status and with 10 representatives from organisations supporting them. In addition, two focus groups were conducted with a group of stakeholders from migrant organisations and with migrant women service users. 

We have produced a report entitled The Right to be Believed (McIlwaine, Granada and Valenzuela-Oblitas, 2019) that outlines the main findings of this research. See also a short version of this report

It showed that the key barriers to reporting experiences of gender-based violence among migrant women were as follows:

  • Fear of not being believed because of insecure immigration status
  • Fear of perpetrator
  • Fear of deportation
  • Fear of losing their children
  • Lack of information

“No humans are born illegally, it’s only humans putting  up barriers.”

As well as feeding into the drafting of the Domestic Abuse Bill (2017-19), the project report, The Right to be Believed, led to artistic outcomes as part of the Visual and Embodied Methodologies network (VEM+) that included an artist in residence with Gaël le Cornec where we produced a performance called Believe.