The Royal Decree Law 16/2012, which limited the access to public health of the population with illegal status, has reduced by 15.6% the number of domestic violence allegations reported among the immigrant population. This has been the finding by the Institute of Economics of Barcelona (IEB) researcher Judit Vall in her session “Restrictions on access to health services by immigrants and their effects on cases filed related to domestic violence” at the Workshop on Health and Immigration, held in the Faculty of Economics of the University of Barcelona.
Vall cites data from her study “Hit where it hurts: healthcare access and intimate partner”, in collaboration with Caoimhe Rice (University of York), which compares the number of domestic violence allegations between nationals and foreigners per quarter between 2009 and 2016. “The reform reduced the average number of complaints by 1.6 for every 10,000 foreign women, and its effect is evident from the first quarter after its application, so this decline can be directly attributable to the change in the law”.
In her presentation, Vall differentiates the effect of the reform by Autonomous Communities, separating those that introduced a milder version of the regulation to reduce the impact and those that applied it in full force. In the first group—composed of Asturias, Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country—the number of domestic violence complaints filed among the immigrant population fell by 7.5%. In comparison, the Communities that applied the reforms in full effect—Madrid, Balearic Islands, Murcia, La Rioja, Castilla and Leon and Castilla la Mancha—saw the numbers falling up to 19.3%.
According to Vall, restricting access to public health of the undocumented population has affected the group that is especially vulnerable to domestic violence. Data from the report show that the ratio of claims filed for every 10,000 Spanish women is 3.3, while in the case of the foreign population it is 15.9. “The victims of gender violence have a threshold above which they decide to leave an abusive relationship, and access to health is very relevant in making that decision, especially in the case of family physicians, who have detection protocols and have the capacity bring each case to social services and to perform supporting work.”
The researcher emphasises the “intergenerational effect” that can arise with the prolonged effect of the health reform. “Domestic violence is particularly pervasive among undocumented immigrant women, who are the most affected by this reform, and this results in a form of collateral damage for children living in family environments where such abuses occur.
Legalization of immigration and the birth rate
For his part, the IEB researcher, Javier Vázquez, presented the paper “Legalisation of illegal immigration, fertility and neonatal health”, in which he analysed the impact of the policies of legalisation on the undocumented population in relation to birth rates. To this end, Vázquez analyses the fertility statistics among immigrant women aged between 16 and 49 years after the reform of the law on foreigners in 2005 implemented by the government of José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, which led to the regularization of 600,000 Immigrants. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics, 45% of the immigrants who had their status legalised were women.
According to Vazquez’s study, after achieving legal status, the possibility of immigrant women having children rose between 4.3%-8.6% more than for the national group, particularly among the youngest cohort. This resulted in new births per year between 235 and 470 after the reform of 2005.
“Immigration policies affect personal decisions, given this, access to social and health services reduce uncertainty for the future and decisively affects fertility”, explains Vazquez, who recalls that in just three months after the reform of 2005, a third of undocumented immigrant women were able to regularize their status.