Migrant domestic violence support scheme extended

Woman with her head in her hands The move makes permanent a pilot scheme which has been running since 2009

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A scheme to help migrants forced to leave relationships as a result of domestic violence is being made permanent, the Home Office has said.

The move follows a pilot project that has provided support for 1,522 people, including 738 women with children.

The initiative assists victims who would otherwise be destitute or have no access to public funds.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said domestic violence affected people of all ages and backgrounds.

'Terrible crime'

The scheme helps spouses and partners, who are foreign nationals and the victims of domestic violence, with access to support services.

The government said the project would assist an estimated 500 people a year in the UK.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "Domestic violence is a terrible crime affecting people of all ages and backgrounds and this government is determined to tackle it.

"No one should be forced to stay in an abusive relationship and this scheme helps victims in genuine need escape violence and harm and seek the support they deserve."

The scheme will become permanent in April following a pilot called the Sojourner Project which has been running since 2009.

The government said that in many cases victims were afraid to seek help because they lacked financial support and feared they would be removed from the UK if their relationship failed.

'Saved lives'

Those eligible for the scheme will be granted a limited period of exceptional leave to remain by the UK Border Agency.

Victims would be able to access financial and support services, such as a refuge, and be allowed to apply for UK residency.

Jo Clarke, from refuge charity Eaves Women's Aid, who co-ordinated the pilot, said: "The Sojourner Project pilot has been a huge success, enabling in excess of 1,000 people, 12 of them men, to escape abusive relationships and secure indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

"Victims of domestic violence with no recourse to public funds are among the most vulnerable and badly abused so the Sojourner funding has, quite literally, saved many lives.

"Our findings have demonstrated the need for this escape route and I welcome the introduction of the government's long-term solution which will mainstream the provision of financial support to this group."

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