UK Immigrant domestic violence support scheme becomes permanent

A 2009 pilot scheme set up to help immigrants forced to leave relationships as a result of domestic violence is being made permanent, the UK Home Office has announced.

The scheme provides help for immigrant spouses and partners who are victims of domestic violence. The pilot scheme, named the Sojourner Project, has already helped a total of 1,522 individuals, including 738 women with children. The program provides victims, who would otherwise have no access to public funds, with assistance to escape abuse and access important support services.

The UK government estimates that each year the scheme will help 500 people to escape from abusive relationships across the UK.

"Domestic violence is a terrible crime affecting people of all ages and backgrounds and this government is determined to tackle it," said Immigration Minister Damian Green. "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 government said that in many cases domestic abuse victims were afraid to seek help because they lacked financial support and feared they would be removed from the UK. Under the program, eligible spouses will be granted a limited period of exceptional leave by the UK Border Agency. This will allow them access to public funds and support services which will help them to leave their abusive relationship and apply for residence in the UK.

"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," said Jo Clarke, from refuge charity Eaves Women's Aid, who coordinated the pilot. "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"

The scheme is expected to become permanent sometime this month.

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