VICTIMS of domestic violence left without support because of their immigration status can get emergency funding and vital advice thanks to a coronavirus fund grant.

Wiltshire Community Foundation has awarded Splitz Support £4,870 from its Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund.

Jackie Pennington, the group’s lead independent domestic violence advisor, said the grant will pay for specialist training in immigration for two members of staff as well as top up its emergency fund.

The group works across north and west Wiltshire, and has become concerned about a rise in the number of women in abusive relationships who have come to it for help with no entitlement to benefits or funding because they may be in the country illegally – often through no fault of their own.

“Their immigration status is used against them as another weapon to keep them within that relationship,” she said.

“The abuser may have told them they will change their visa status for them but has then not done it so that the victim may have overstayed without really knowing or being aware of their situation.”

Some women who come to the UK for an arranged marriage are prevented from learning English. “Although their status may say they can work, they are unable to. If you can’t speak English you can’t communicate with professionals if there is something wrong,” said Mrs Pennington.

“Abuse is frightening for any victim but to be trapped in a country with no understanding of how it works and unable to communicate, that is absolutely terrifying. They are left totally dependent on and in the power of the person who is abusing them.”

Some of the women are trafficked and others have travelled illegally to be with a relative.

Victims are referred to the charity by health workers, schools or police and almost always have no money and few possessions and, because they have no legal status, they can’t claim for accommodation or emergency benefits and are at risk of deportation.

The Splitz emergency fund pays for somewhere safe to stay until the victim can get an appointment with an immigration advisor in Bristol or Reading.

The group’s cases are up 60 per cent on last year.

To donate to the fund, or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to