Partner visas can be a 'powerful tool' for abusers - survivor who left violent ex-husband tells LBC

4 March 2024, 07:37 | Updated: 10 March 2024, 09:00

  • Warning this article may contain distressing content
A woman whose visa expired months after she left her violent partner tells LBC that the system can be weaponised by abusers.
A woman whose visa expired months after she left her violent partner tells LBC that the system can be weaponised by abusers. Picture: Alamy
Lillie Almond

By Lillie Almond

A woman whose visa expired months after she left her violent partner tells LBC that the system can be weaponised by abusers.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Maria, who has been renamed to protect her safety, left her ex-partner of nine years because of his coercive controlling behaviour, and physical and emotional abuse.

Maria tells LBC: “Everybody just thinks, ‘Well, you’ve got kids, you should grow old together for the sake of the kids.’ But it wasn’t even safe for the children. Because I remember once, the silence in the house, you could cut it with a knife. And I’m just thinking, ‘I do not want my children to be modelling their own relationships on mine.’”

But Maria had been here on a partner visa - which was due to expire four months after she left her ex. She explains, “Whilst I was in a women’s refuge, I went to my support worker and she said, ‘My visa is expiring.’ She said, ‘I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing with you - because if your visa expires, then that means I can’t keep you here.’”

Maria says that she went to see a solicitor - who quoted her £8,000 to arrange visas for her and her two children. But she did not have this money, because her partner had prevented her from working.

Caller shares harrowing story of domestic abuse

In a twist of fate, Maria says she was almost hit by a car when leaving the solicitor’s office - thus bumping into someone who saw her distress, so invited her for coffee and a chat.

Maria tells us, “And that turned out to be an angel sent - she turned out to be a solicitor and I just broke down, told my story - and she said, I know exactly what you need to do, and I will support you all the way.”

The woman explained the process that Maria needed to follow, in order to have her visa fees waived. Maria says that more awareness is needed around this information and adds that it took four years to receive a response to her visa extension application - thus leaving her in a womens’ refuge for far longer than necessary: “I remember at one point, they used to call be a ‘bedblocker’ because there was no need for me to be in a refuge - because I had finished. I had done all the training and support I could do.”

Maria says she was told that all her options had been exhausted - and that it was with the help of her MP that she was able to eventually get the process towards housing into motion.

Shelagh speaks on fear and abuse as the 'backdrop' of women's lives

She now volunteers at a charity called Power of the Mind, which supports Black women, by creating a social network and safe space.

Mavis Mundirwa its Founder: “It’s part of our culture: we are told not to go and air out our dirty linen. So, to go and say something to a total stranger, and go and to talk about your life, share these intimate issues - people don’t do it. So, here, it’s not like we are saying we support people through domestic issues as such.

"We are doing activities: [...] We come here, we do arts and crafts, we do cookery sessions, we do exercise - so when they come, it’s not really just about domestic abuse, but we are approaching it in a holistic way. So that’s why we say, we have a holistic approach to domestic abuse awareness. People now become very comfortable with us, with everyone, so that they start sharing their lives,” she told LBC.

Maria agrees: “I feel personally, that if I had somebody to hold my hand through the journey, that would have made all the difference. So, I’m making that difference in the small way that I can.

"Because when you talk to somebody going through a situation, it feels like you are climbing Mount Everest, which it is: it is really difficult. But when you’ve got somebody, when you hear the worst news that you could possibly hear and you were expecting a positive outcome - and it’s just shattering, you just want somebody to talk to.”

Mavis and Maria say that groups such as Power of the Mind, with cultural awareness and specific knowledge about domestic abuse in Black and minority ethnic communities, are vital in helping survivors to feel safe in leaving abusive relationships. They say that charities such as Power of the Mind are “saving lives” - and saving the NHS immeasurable amounts of money, by providing support at grassroots levels before matters escalate.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of their immigration status.

“Through our Migrant Victims of Domestic Abuse Concession, victims who have entered the UK on certain partner or spousal visas can access public funds for three months, which can be used to fund safe accommodation.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

A child is dead and five people have been injured after a house fire in East Ham, London.

Child dead after deadly blaze that injured five which gutted east London home and needed 40 firefighters to tackle

Daniel Halliday went missing while playing in the water with his brother on June 30.

Body found in the sea confirmed to be 14-year-old Daniel Halliday who was swept away in River Mersey on June 30

A Scottish council has come under fire for handing almost 2,000 penalties in the first 11 days of its low emission zone

Scottish council under fire after handing out 2,000 fines in first 11 days of new low emission zone

Graziano Di Prima has broken his silence

Strictly Come Dancing pro Graziano Di Prima breaks silence after being 'sacked' following misconduct claims

Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Graziano Di Prima has been sacked by the BBC

Strictly Come Dancing pro 'sacked' after claims of gross misconduct towards former partner Zara McDermott

Prince William will be at the game on Sunday

‘Just one last push’: Prince William’s message to the England team ahead of Euro 2024 final against Spain

The family of the three women who were killed in a crossbow attack have said they are "devastated"

‘We are devastated’, John Hunt and surviving daughter say, after his wife and two daughters killed in crossbow attack

At least 71 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli air strike

‘Dozens killed in air strike on Gaza humanitarian zone’ as Israel says it was targeting Hamas leaders

The Princess of Wales is set to attend the Wimbledon Men's final

Princess of Wales to attend Wimbledon men's singles final in second public appearance since cancer diagnosis

Comedian John Bishop has divided fans after announcing he will be changing the time of his gig on Sunday

Wireless Festival and Comedian John Bishop spark controversy after changing set times for England's Euro 2024 final

Joe Biden has insisted he is staying in the race

Democrat donors ‘withhold $90m unless Biden stands down’ as Obama and Pelosi ‘oppose President’s re-election bid’

Two suitcases with human remains inside were found in Bristol

Armed police arrest man, 34, at train station following discovery of human remains in Bristol and west London

Princess Anne has returned to public duties for the first time since her accident

Princess Anne 'can't remember a single thing' about horse-related accident as she returns to public duties

Tony Blair was among a star-studded guest list at the wedding of the son of India's richest man

Tony Blair, Boris Johnson and wrestling star John Cena among guests at lavish wedding of Asia's richest man

Jay Slater went missing nearly a month ago

Jay Slater ‘looked unwell’ hours before he went missing, says Tenerife nightclub waitress who ‘gave him water’

Actor Alec Baldwin reacts during his trial for involuntary manslaughter

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge dismisses manslaughter case against actor after fatal shooting on film set