A woman who told police she had been kidnapped and repeatedly raped over a period of six months was arrested over her immigration status. Has Theresa May’s pledge to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants gone too far?
The woman, who was five months pregnant at the time she reported her ordeal to police in March, said she had been abducted and raped in Germany between September 2016 and March 2017.
The victim was referred to the Havens sexual assault center, which provides support to those who have been sexually abused. But once at the center, she was handcuffed and taken into custody at an East London police station, where she was questioned over her immigration status.
Fizza Qureshi, director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, has spoken out about the case. “It is shocking and incredibly upsetting to hear of this situation, where a rape victim is treated as a criminal rather than getting the care and support she needs.
“If the police are treating victims of crime who happen to be undocumented migrants as perpetrators, it will deter other victims and witnesses from coming forward. There must be avenues of safe-reporting for all victims regardless of their immigration status,” she told Politics.co.uk.
The Havens center was outraged by the arrest, and lodged a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police. It also raised the issue directly with Met Commissioner Cressida Dick when she visited the center earlier this year.
Figures obtained under freedom of information by Politics.co.uk reveal that police are increasingly tipping off victims of crime to the Home Office. There were 634 cases of this kind in 2014, rising to 3,372 in 2015.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it is correct that police report victims of crime to the Home Office if there are concerns about their immigration status. However, speaking at a victims’ summit last week, the mayor said more should be done to support victims of crime in the criminal justice system.
“It is essential that they are able to access the right support to help them recover and find justice,” he said. “Without the confidence of victims to come forward and report crimes, we don’t catch the perpetrators, justice isn’t done and there’s the risk there’ll be more victims of crime down the line.”