An American woman has claimed she had to drop rape and assault charges against her own husband in order to remain in Ireland with her two children.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the woman known only as Deborah and her now ex-husband - who is a European citizen - moved to Ireland in 2001, and because of her immigration status she was obliged to go with him to the Irish police immigration office every six months to confirm he was still working in the country, allowing her to stay.
'We had separated because of the violence after I had my first son but we tried to work things out,' she told TheJournal.ie. 'In 2004, things were OK for a while but by Christmas he had become more violent and he took a belt to me, and split the back of my head open.'
A few months later, Deborah told her husband she wanted a separation and she said that night he beat her and sexually assaulted her in their house.
'I called the police and they arrested him, he admitted that he’d done it,' she said.
After that the woman and her two children reportedly moved into a women’s refuge for a short period, but when the time came to apply for emergency funding she claimed the social welfare workers were hostile towards her.
“My immigration card had expired and the man who was there said it was illegal for me to be here and how dare I try to get money. I was standing there with two small children, my face was a mess, it was obvious someone had tore into me and he actually told me that he had a good mind to call the police on me.”
Deborah said she had thought of leaving Ireland but one of her children had been born in a European country and she was told by an Irish lawyer that if she returned to the U.S. with the two children at that time, she could be accused of kidnapping them.
'I really had no way to leave. It was either leave them behind with him or take them with me and possibly have to send them back alone since there was no guarantee I’d be allowed back in. I was trapped in a place it was illegal for me to be in.'
When the time came to have her immigration status renewed, Deborah was told it could not be done without her husband, who was by this time remanded to prison.
The charges against him meant that he could not be within a certain distance of her and when he came before the courts, Deborah said she was 'forced to drop the rape charges' so that he could help her to stay in the country.
'It was a humiliating experience,' she told TheJournal.ie 'I spoke in front of the same police who were there when I went for the medical examination, they knew what had happened and the only reason I was dropping the charges was because of my immigration status. In any other situation, I would have seen it through but I had to let him away with it.'
After receiving free legal advice and writing to the government about her situation, Deborah was eventually granted leave to stay in the country independent of her husband by the Department of Justice.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland has warned that immigrants who are victims of domestic violence are often silenced out of fear that reporting the crime will impact on their ability to remain in the country.
The council is now seeking to have domestic violence formally recognized in Irish immigration law and the provision of emergency accommodation and welfare benefits for victims.
However in a statement to TheJournal.ie, The Irish Department of Justice said that it 'does not accept that the lack of specific legislation in this area is keeping people trapped in violent relationships.'