A University of Roehampton professor has raised £58,000 to fund emergency shelter accommodation for migrants, specifically women and children, escaping domestic violence.
Criminology Professor Aisha K. Gill, PhD CBE set up the emergency Covid fund in June for victims and survivors of gender-based violence whose immigration status means they have no access to public funds.
Her crowdfunder earned her a spot in the shortlist for the 2020 Star Women award organised by Hello! magazine, which recognises women who have dedicated themselves to exceptional acts of kindness and positivity during these difficult times.
Gill is raising a further £5,000 before 20 November to provide urgent support.
Gill said: “For those living with perpetrators of domestic abuse during the Covid 19 lockdown, self-isolation can pose a far greater risk than the disease itself.”
The money Gill has raised is helping to feed and clothe migrant women and children who are being supported temporarily by London Black Women’s Project, Southall Black Sisters, Apna Haq in Rotherham, Sistah Space in Hackney, Iranian and Kurdish Women Rights Organisation and Ashiana Network.
Organisations tackling violence against women and girls were already struggling to find funding and continue providing services before the pandemic.
Refuge, a charity which supports women and girls who are victims of domestic abuse, saw visits to its website rise by 950% compared to pre-Covid-19.
The pandemic forced many victims to return to violent family members due to the lack of refuge accommodation and the closure of schools and day centres.
Gill is calling for both short-term interventions and long-term planning to tackle the crisis facing BMER women.
“We must act now to tackle the increase in violence against women and girls facilitated by COVID-19, and the specialised needs of marginalised women and girls must be considered in the design and implementation of relevant measures,” said Gill.
She added: “While need is especially high right now, violence against women and girls will not end when lockdowns does.”
Writing for The Independent, Gill said that one Asian woman she had been supporting said of her partner: “Nothing will be done, he will kill me and blame it on coronavirus. The government and the police do not care about immigrants like me.”
Gill said the UK Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy has removed black, minority ethnic and refugee (BMER) women’s access to many basic services, including refuges, through ‘no resource to public funds’ (NPRF) measures.
This means they “must choose between staying with their abusers or trying to survive on the streets”.
The ‘hostile environment’ policy led to more than half of the UK’s police forces admitting they hand over migrant victims’ details to immigration enforcement officials when they report crimes.
Gill is planning a series of community events during 16 days of action from 25th November and is also working to launch further activities into 2021.
“As long as our government fails to step up to support the vulnerable in our midst, I will fundraise every day for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Gill has provided advice to the Government, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Metropolitan Police, Crown Prosecution Service, and the voluntary sector on legal policy issues related to ‘honour’-based violence/abuse, ‘honour’ killings, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
You can support Professor Gill by donating to her Just Giving page.
A charity cooking school which helps vulnerable migrants and refugees also won an award at the 2020 Urban Food Awards earlier this month.