“Many of us have been told that we have no rights, either to be heard or to be supported. Here we feel safe, here we feel at home.”
A migrant woman attending today’s group meeting along with her 1½ year-old child had been referred to the project previously by a domestic violence support group. She was living in a B&B, alone and isolated after leaving an extremely violent husband. Unaware of her rights or what to do, Safety 4 Sisters NW helped her to access support from an immigration adviser that enabled her to apply to the immigration authorities. After three months and as a result of the support she had received, this woman was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Safety 4 Sisters Northwest is a migrant women’s rights organisation based in Manchester. They are at the forefront of activism to support women subject to immigration control that have no recourse to public funds and are experiencing gender-based abuse. Late last year, to meet the growing need that was very much in evidence to the organisation’s activists, the Migrant Women’s Rights to Safety project was set up. This takes the form of a weekly meeting attended by service users who are experiencing immigration control issues and often horrific gender-based abuse. The project gives women at the margins of society a safe space to meet and somewhere where their voices can be heard.
Around 60 women and their children use the service at present and at the weekly meeting that took place today, 15 women and 16 children attended. At the weekly meetings, they can access information, advice, advocacy and practical support in a safe, confidential and supportive environment where they are provided with lunch and opportunities to socialise with others. These women are empowered to help themselves overcome incredibly complex problems in their lives.