NZFVC webinar addressing needs of migrant victim-survivors of family violence

Tue 08 Nov 2022

We will be hosting a webinar on 28 November 2022 looking at the rights and needs of migrant victim-survivors of family violence in relation to immigration policies and practices.

woman with a headscarf writing notes in notebook while using laptop

NZFVC webinar

The NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse is hosting a webinar on the Rights and needs of migrant victim-survivors of family violence within immigration policies and practices on Monday, 28 November 2022 from 11:30am to 1:00pm.

Research and feedback from victim-survivors and advocates has shown that immigration policies and practices can create barriers for migrant victims of family violence when accessing help.

The webinar will look at:

  • The current situation for migrant victim-survivors of family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand in relation to immigration policies
  • Policies from other countries and Aotearoa New Zealand’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • What policy, practice and support changes are needed.

The webinar will feature 5 panellists including:

  • Vasudha Gautam, the Client Care Coordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Advice Service at Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley, and a victim-survivor
  • Silvana Erenchun Perez, the Strategic Manager of Shama Ethnic Women’s Trust
  • Sarah Croskery-Hewitt lawyer and legal researcher, focused on access to justice issues facing survivors of family and sexual violence including research on the intersection of immigration law and family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Dhilum Nightingale, community lawyer who works with migrant survivors of domestic violence with visa applications and appeals to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal
  • Megan Williams, law reform advocate at Community Law Centres o Aotearoa, working in the areas of immigration and refugee law, social welfare and housing law, family violence and access to justice

See more information about the panellists and register to attend. A video recording of the webinar and transcript will be made available on our website. 

Background and related news

Green Party MP Jan Logie has proposed a member’s bill, Protecting Migrant Victims of Family Violence Bill, to provide stronger protections for people in migrant communities who experience family violence. The bill aims to prioritise children’s needs, remove barriers to help-seeking for recent migrants, and recognise and remove opportunities for immigration law-related abuse and coercion as a dynamic of family violence. The draft bill is available online. In announcing the bill, Jan Logie said:

“Everyone has the right to a life free from violence, regardless of their immigration status. However for migrants coming to Aotearoa New Zealand with their partners, New Zealand’s current immigration settings can trap them in some very dangerous situations.

“Under the current rules, migrant victims of family violence in a relationship with a citizen or permanent resident have access to two special visa categories. They can either be granted a Family Violence Work Visa for six months or, in some specific circumstances, a Family Violence Resident Visa.

“However, the criteria for both is so narrow and the burden of proof so high that many survivors are not eligible, and are forced to remain in a violent relationship in order to stay in the country/with their children.

“Immigration Ministers past and present have known about this for years, particularly following the findings of a 2019 report by Immigration New Zealand - and yet nothing has been done to change it, including in the big immigration reset the Government announced a few months ago.

“My Bill would provide a long overdue pathway for migrants who are trapped in violent relationships. It will put the needs of children at the heart of the system and make it easier for migrant victims to apply for, and be issued with, a family violence visa."

The bill has not yet been pulled from the biscuit tin and does not yet have enough support to be introduced in Parliament without being selected through the ballot.

Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine | the Women’s Employment Action Plan includes an action to "Review the immigration settings for migrants in New Zealand who experience family violence to ensure that appropriate support is available, including visa categories that are more commonly granted to women" by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Manatū Wāhine | Ministry for Women, and the Ministry for Ethnic Communities.

Media outlet Newsroom reported that a review of partnership-based visa settings, including the Victims of Family Violence Work visa, is planned for 2023. Newsroom has also highlighted that changes coming in December 2022 to work visas for partners of temporary migrants could increase the risks for victims of family violence.

The parliamentary select Education and Workforce Committee completed an inquiry into migrant exploitation. In the final report from the inquiry, the Committee noted that feedback they heard from submitters included:

"Restricting work rights for partners of work visa holders may have negative outcomes. We heard repeatedly from submitters that migrants do not report exploitation because they fear deportation or other changes to their visa status. Similarly, some migrants may not report family violence because their immigration status is tied to an abusive partner. If partners of work visa holders cannot work, and are financially dependent on an abusive partner, they are even less likely to report abuse. They may also be incentivised to work illegally, which puts them at greater risk of exploitation." (page 25)

The Committee also stated "We believe that Victims of Family Violence visas should be available to all migrants who are experiencing abuse, not just those migrants who are the partner of a New Zealand citizen or residence class visa holder." The Committee made 3 related recommendations:

"We recommend that the Government closely monitor instances of family violence in migrant families and consider whether immigration settings should be changed to prevent violence.

We recommend that the Government prioritise work to make sure that migrant partners and families are suitably supported by the immigration system after situations of family violence.

We recommend that the Government consider the eligibility criteria for the Victims of Family Violence Visa to enable more migrants to access it. " (page 27)

A previous MBIE report identified "policy issues and INZ operational/processing issues" that present barriers to migrant victims obtaining family violence visas. Ethnic, migrant and former refugee communities identified these and other issues during the engagement to develop Te Aorerekura. Their feedback and recommendations are summarised in the community analysis paper Analysis: Ethnic, migrant and former refugee communities: engagement for Te Aorerekura.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has previously raised concerns about the impacts of immigration settings on migrant victims of family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand. In their Concluding Observations on New Zealand's 8th periodic report (CEDAW/C/NZL/CO/8), the Committee highlighted: that migrant women with children might be "...returned to their country of origin, leaving their children behind with fathers, even in cases where there is known or reported abuse", that migrant women might remain in abusive relationships because their visa status was dependent on their partner and that women in these situations have barriers to access to justice including no access to legal aid. The Committee recommended the government:

"(a) Revise its immigration laws, with a view to facilitating access to permanent residency permits for mothers of children who hold New Zealand nationality;

(b) Ensure the availability of shelters for migrant women who are victims of violence, including domestic violence, and provide them with free legal and psychological counselling, rehabilitation and other support services;

(c) Create adequate conditions for women migrants to lodge complaints, including by ensuring that they are properly informed of their rights, and available remedies, including how to lodge complaints of violations of those rights, including in a language that they can understand."

For more information

For more information about violence against women from ethnic and migrant communities, see:

Intersections of immigration law and family violence: exploring barriers for ethnic migrant and refugee background women (2021), by Irene Ayallo

NZFVC Issues Paper Ethnic perspectives on family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand (2019) by Rachel Simon-Kumar

Episode 5: Shakti of the Breaking Silence documentary series, produced by Magnetic Pictures for Stuff with the support of NZ On Air and published on RNZ

For related research and information see the Migrants, Refugees and Asian peoples quick topic searches in our NZFVC library.

Related news

Adhikaar Aotearoa has published the report, Community is where the knowledge is: the Adhikaar report (2022), sharing findings from a community consultation about the unique experiences that LGBT+ South Asians face in Aotearoa New Zealand. The report shares the stories from the community and speaks to experiences through three themes: self and society, ethnic families and communities, and mainstream LGBT+ communities. Adhikaar Aotearoa is a Aotearoa-based charity that provides education, advocacy and support towards their vision of "An Aotearoa where LGBTQIA+ people of colour, particularly South Asians, can be themselves, free of fear and stigma, and explore their potential while challenging discrimination against them." Sandra Dickson from Takatāpui and Rainbow organisation Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura wrote A reflection on The Adhikaar Report.

Related media

Strengthened protections and improved processes for partners of migrant workers, Beehive media release, 27.02.2023

Wood postpones partner work visa changes until Easter, Newsroom, 05.12.2022

Last-minute change of heart sees immigration minister delay major partner visa policy, Stuff, 05.12.2022

Changes to partner work visas deferred to April 2023, Beehive media release, 05.12.2022

'Doubling administration': Experts warn over work rights for migrants' partners, RNZ, 29.11.2022

‘This is not spoken about’: Gold, cars, property demanded in cases of dowry abuse, Sydney Morning Herald, 20.11.2022

Racism and violence experienced by South Asian LGBTQIA+ New Zealanders, Stuff, 02.11.2022

Violence ignored in immigration changes, Newsroom, 31.08.2022

Man who held machete to wife's neck escapes deportation, Stuff, 31.08.2022

$1000 infringement fees just ‘loose change’ to exploitative employers, Newroom, 25.08.2022

New panel sees refugees advise on refugees, Newroom, 27.07.2022

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