Dear Sadiq Khan,
We are writing to ask you to make London a Sanctuary City for abused migrant women.
Our city is facing two pandemics, the COVID-19 virus and the violence that it exacerbates. In the last year, rates of domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence have spiralled across our city, and despite government rhetoric, many migrant women have been left to face that abuse alone.
The government recently announced that it was putting travellers up in quarantine hotels, demonstrating that they have the resources and infrastructure to rapidly house people when there is political will. But they refuse to demonstrate that will, support or funding to ensure that migrant women are not trapped with their abusers.
As you know, the government’s ‘hostile’ or ‘compliant’ environment policies are stopping migrant women from leaving abusive relationships or seeking help. By stamping passports with No Recourse to Public Funds and excluding migrant women from accessing the welfare safety net, the government is denying women and children safe refuge and trapping them at home with their abusers. We can and must do better.
In the last year you have shown leadership on this issue by providing safe accommodation to 200 women fleeing domestic abuse - including migrant women. You have also funded a limited number of temporary bed spaces for women with No Recourse to Public Funds by funding the Covid-19 Crisis Project run by Southall Black Sisters and Solace Women’s Aid, but this is nowhere near enough to meet demand. Many women remain trapped in abuse and without hope of protection and support. Even with the surge in domestic violence during lockdown, which has resulted in a 34% increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines, four in five migrant women are still turned away from refuges - often with children in tow.
We are asking you to go further by overriding the government’s inhumane policies to make London a Sanctuary City, just as Mayors across the US have done in response to Trump’s racist immigration enforcement actions. We are calling on you to ensure that migrant women in London will never be referred to the Home Office if they report their abuse to the police, and to guarantee each woman and her children:
- Safe accommodation
- £50 allowance per week, plus extra for children
- Access to wrap-around specialist support
- Legal advice and representation
Violence is not inevitable. Mayors always have a choice about whether and how to respond to the challenges facing the people and communities they represent.
We urge you to stand up to the government and to defy their inhumane hostile environment policies by ensuring that the most marginalised women are given the sanctuary and support to rebuild their lives. In doing so, you will be sending a message that London must be open and safe, for everyone.
Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women's Equality Party
Pragna Patel, Founder and Director of Southall Black Sisters
Baljit Banga, Executive Director, Imkaan
Rosanna Lewis & Ngozi Fulani, Sistah Space
Jasbindar Bhatoa, Senior Legal Officer, Rights of Women
Gisela Valle, Director, Latin American Women's Rights Service
Halaleh Taheri, Founder & Executive Director, Middle Eastern Women & Society Organisation-MEWSo
Gabriela Quevedo, Director for Advocacy and Influencing, Latin American Women’s Aid
Matt Hawkins, Co-Director, Compassion in Politics
Karen Ingala Smith, Chief Executive, NIA
Camille Rouse, Legal Advice Service Manager, London Black Women’s Project