September 23, 2021

Virus adds to woes of women visa holders | The Canberra Times

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The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened struggles for Victoria’s already-vulnerable women who hold temporary visas, a new report says. The Monash University study, published on Thursday, analysed 100 case files of women who experienced domestic and family violence during Victoria’s first lockdown. From mid-March to the end of May, 92 per cent of the temporary visa holders who sought help from inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence reported perpetrators making recent threats to harm them or their children. Some 87 per cent had been emotionally abused, while more than 60 per cent were threatened with deportation. Almost a third (31 per cent) feared deportation or being forced to leave the nation without their Australian-born children. The majority of perpetrators were Australian citizens or permanent residents, the report said. Associate professor Marie Segrave, the lead author of the report, said “temporariness” was often used by abusers as leverage. “This fear and uncertainty regarding the threat of being deported impacts across a whole range of areas – financial, familial, and beyond,” she said on Thursday. “While it is not accurate that visa sponsors can have someone deported, these perpetrators often assert themselves as having more power and impact.” More than three-quarters of the women feared harm or death at the hands of their perpetrator. In some cases, perpetrators used that power and control for sexual violence, financial extortion and even to starve pregnant partners. The vulnerable women reported a host of pandemic-related impacts, with 70 per cent of those previously employed losing their job amid the crisis. Other flow-on effects included rising economic dependence on perpetrators, delays in intervention order hearings, and closures to legal services. InTouch chief executive Michal Morris conceded issues for temporary visa holders were nothing new, but said the virus had “largely intensified” their impacts. “In the context of COVID-19, limited job opportunities, community organisations that are under even more pressure, more time being stuck at home with perpetrators, and a lack of ongoing financial support, are all significant impacts creating stressors to these women,” she said. Report co-author Dr Naomi Pfitzner said the pandemic had exacerbated existing inequalities for temporary visa holders who have limited access to family violence support and are excluded altogether from JobSeeker and JobKeeper. The researchers have called for a review and expansion of family violence provisions and a new bridging visa for those who encounter domestic and family violence, among other measures. Australian Associated Press

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