Friday, 4 November 2011

Justice for Domestic Workers wins Anti-Slavery award

Kalayaan is delighted that Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW) has been awarded the 2011 Anti-Slavery Award.   Marissa Begonia received the award on behalf of J4DW at the Human Trafficking Foundation Media Awards held in the House of Lords on Anti Slavery Day, 18th October.  Marissa used this opportunity to remind the audience and Immigration Minister Damian Green MP about the disastrous impact the proposed changes to the domestic worker visa will have. The impacts are likely to include an increase in abuse and return to slavery.

Marissa said:

“With the visa, we are officially recognised as workers and our contribution to the economy, to families and to society is acknowledged. But more crucially for us, we are given the right to change employers if they don’t pay us, force us to work or abuse us. I need to ask why the government is considering removing a visa that been proven to significantly reduce the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers?”.

You can TAKE ACTION to stop these proposals by asking your MP to raise the matter with Home Secretary Theresa May MP as a matter of urgency. Please see the template letter and our briefing on the proposals.  You can also write directly to Damian Green using the points below.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Still time to take action to protect migrant domestic workers

The UK Government is planning to remove the important protections provided by the migrant domestic worker visa. The result will be an increase in abuse, exploitation and trafficking for domestic servitude.

The Consultation which contains these proposals has now closed but the UK Government has not yet announced any decision. If you want to take action, you can still potentially influence a decision by writing to your MP and expressing you concerns. Here is a template letter.

You can also write directly to the Immigraton Minister Damian Green MP, outlining your concerns about the planned changes to the visa, and urging the Government to:

·         Retain the Overseas Domestic Worker visa
·         Ensure that all overseas domestic workers have the right to change employer including those in diplomatic households
·         Ensure that Migrant domestic workers have legal recognition as workers
·         Ensure domestic workers who are in full-time domestic employment are able to apply to renew their visas
·         Ensure domestic workers retain the right to apply for settlement

Address: Damian Green MP, Minister for Immigration, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF

Friday, 2 September 2011

Last chance to save rights of migrant domestic workers

The Government Consultation containing the disasterous proposals for migrant domestic workers closes next week on the 9th September

To remove the visa altogether as proposed would only deter good employers. Employers prepared to break the law in their employment practises are unlikely to hesitate at bringing domestic workers on family or visit visas. Once here on these visas domestic workers would have no rights in the UK and would be working in breach of their immigration conditions.

The other proposed option is for workers to enter on a 6 or 12 month, non renewable visa. On this visa they would not be permitted to change employer, no matter what their treatment, nor would they be protected by UK labour laws. It is not clear what would they would be expected to do once their visa expired as many have been recruited from a third country, to which they would have no right of return without their employer. To return to their country would not be out of the question for many domestic workers who have debts incurred while securing their overseas job. It seems likely that workers would not only be severely exploited on this visa but that employers would encourage (or force) them to stay on in the UK once their visa had expired.

Please respond raising your concerns at the removal of a visa which works well to protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the UK. An online response can be submitted directly here

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Jail for woman convicted today of keeping a domestic worker as a slave

You can find coverage in the Guardian, Telegraph and on the BBC.

Kalayaan is concerned that without the protections contained within the domestic worker visa, allowing workers to leave abusive employers without jepordising their immigration status, future workers in similar cases may be too scared to involve the police.

Please visit for actions to maintain the visa.

Watch our video showing why migrant domestic workers need basic protections in law

This video documents why migrant domestic workers need basic protections in law. The UK Government proposes to remove the existing protections including the right to change employer. Kalayaan demands these proposals are dropped and protections are improved.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Less than a month left to protect migrant domestic workers in the UK!

The Government's Consultation on employment related settlement which contains proposals to remove protections for migrant domestic workers will close on the 9th September- in less than a month.

Please respond before this date to express any concerns you have with the proposals. You can find Kalayaan's full and template response on our website . You can respond online here or can fill out and return the form by post or email here

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Government's new Human Trafficking strategy will not prevent trafficking for domestic servitude

On the 19th July the Government published its new strategy on Human Trafficking.

Kalayaan is concerned that the strategy places too much faith in border controls and has too little focus on victim protection. We have found nothing within the strategy which would replace the protections for migrant domestic workers provided by the domestic worker visa.
The domestic worker visa has been found to be the most important prevention of trafficking for domestic servitude.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Domestic workers speak out!

On the 10th July over 250 migrant domestic workers attended a public meeting held at Unite the Union to discuss their concerns at the proposed changes to the domestic worker visa and to respond to the Government's Consulation.

There was unanimous agreement that the changes as proposed would be a disaster and a return to slavery. As one worker put it:

'if we were unable to change employer, we will suffer abuse and we will not be treated like any other employee in the UK. We have this right, we are safe now, why change something which helps people?'

Please write to your MP (you can use our template response letter) and respond to the Consultation to keep domestic workers protected.

You can find Kalayaan's template Consultation response here and you can respond online here. Please don't forget to respond before the Consultation response deadline of 9th September.

Photo credit: Paddy Craig

Friday, 8 July 2011

Why the visa works

We were called at Kalayaan a few weeks ago by a friend of ‘Mary’s’ (not her real name). She had first met Mary a few months ago at the gates of the school when they were both dropping off or collecting kids. Mary had slowly begun to trust her and it had become clear that Mary was being treated very badly. She had been in the UK about 1 year and had not been paid at all during this time. She was becoming desperate as she had been brought here by a wealthy and respected friend of the family, to work for her and help with the children, and the only reason Mary had agreed to come was that she could send money home to support her own children.

In fact she had been unable to speak with her family since arriving in the UK and was very worried about how they were surviving without her having sent any money home at all.
The friend passed on Mary’s phone number and we were able to speak with her on the phone. She was very scared of trusting us. Her conditions of employment were awful. She had never had a day off, she slept on the floor of the children’s room, and she cooked all the meals and did all the cleaning and would be called to work at any time. She could only sleep once everyone else in the house had gone to bed and was surviving on leftovers.  Mary’s passport was kept from her but she had a photocopy of her visa and we were able to establish that it was a valid domestic worker visa.

We explained to Mary that her employers were breaking the law in treating her this way and we could ask the police to go in and help her leave. Mary took a lot of convincing but was persuaded in the end by another worker from her country speaking to her and explaining that with her valid visa she would be able to find another job and work to support her family.

Mary eventually agreed to us contacting the police, who went in and helped her leave. Her employer has been arrested and Mary is slowly beginning to rebuild her life. It is clear that without the domestic worker visa which meant she could leave her employer while knowing she wasn’t breaking the law she would probably still be in the situation of slavery.

Please respond to the Consultation on the Government’s proposals to stop or remove the rights from this visa. Please also write to your MP explaining why these changes would be so disastrous for women like Mary.  You can use the template letter on our website, but it would be even better to write your own.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

US state department concerned by lack of UK help for abused embassy staff

See Tuesday's Guardian article: US state department concerned by lack of UK help for abused embassy staff. Rather than improve protections for these workers the UK is planning to remove protections for all migrant domestic workers in the UK.

Please do write to your MP (go to for a template letter) and respond to the Government's Consulation to object to these very worrying proposals.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Important Actions! Please respond to the Government's Consultation on proposed changes for migrant domestic workers and write to your MP.

Two important actions to protect migrant domestic workers in the UK.

1. Respond to the Government's Consultation
The Government's alarming proposed changes to the migrant domestic worker visa have been proposed in their Consulation on employment related settlement. It is important that as many people as possible respond explaining how the changes will remove the most important protection for this already vulnerable group of workers leading to an increase in abuse including trafficking.
You can find Kalayaan's template response on our website. You can reply to the consultation online here.
Please remember to respond well before the closing date of 9th September 2011.

2. Write to your MP
Please write to your MP urgently, outlining your concerns and asking them to raise these with Theresa May, the Secretary of State. You can find out who your MP is here.
You are welcome to use Kalayaan's template response letter on our website, but it will be more effective if you have time to write your own.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Government proposals could mean a return to slavery for migrant domestic workers in the UK

On the 9th June 2011 the Government announced alarming proposals to change the law on migrant domestic workers in its Consultation on Employment Related Settlement, Tier 5 and Overseas Domestic Workers

Kalayaan condemns these proposals which, if made law, could mean a return to slavery for migrant domestic workers in the UK.
They include options to either abolish the route for migrant domestic workers to enter the UK, leaving them open to being brought into the UK by employers through informal routes in breach of immigration controls, or to restrict them to a 6 or 12 month non renewable visa, and to remove the right to change employers even if severely abused.

Removing the right to change employer would mean a return to bonded labour.  

“The visa has been recognised as the main protection for this group of workers who are already especially vulnerable to severe exploitation including slavery and trafficking for domestic servitude” said Kate Roberts, Community Advocate at Kalayaan.

Removing the visa altogether would increase trafficking via illegal routes and unlawful working leaving those workers believing they are unable to contact the authorities for assistance and with few if any enforceable rights.

Limiting the length of the visa makes it likely that unscrupulous employers would keep workers working for them beyond the length of the visa, again without any recourse to meaningful legal protection against even severe exploitation.

The Government claims that anti trafficking measures can replace protections provided by the visa. Kalayaan, together with many others working with victims of trafficking, hve real doubts about how effective these measures are in practice for all victims. Nor do anti trafficking protections do anything to protect an individual before they are trafficked or to assist those who have been severely exploited but whose abuse does not meet all the trafficking criteria.

It is vital that we take action now, before these proposals are implemented. Please watch this space for campaign actions and please do get involved to prevent this leap towards state sanctioned slavery.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

My experiences working as a volunteer at Kalayaan

I have been a volunteer at Kalayaan twice. During my first time volunteering I contributed to the Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers project. I transcribed interviews that were done with the migrant domestic workers regarding their experiences with their employers and the migrant domestic worker visa. I also worked on the client database.

What I enjoyed the most about my time at Kalayaan was meeting the migrant domestic workers and getting to know them. This really put the work that was being done into context and motivated me to do as good a job as possible for them. I think this is what differentiates volunteering at Kalayaan from other charities. The small and relaxed atmosphere of the office creates a positive and comfortable working environment and makes it a pleasure to come in to work.

During my second time volunteering at Kalayaan I conducted interviews with some of the migrant domestic workers based on their experiences of taking a case against their employer to the employment tribunal. I particularly enjoyed this task as it involved working with the migrant domestic workers directly which made the work more meaningful.

My experience at Kalayaan was emotionally rewarding and worthwhile!


Friday, 10 June 2011

Update from Kalayaan's Community Advocate Kate Roberts (contd)

The Conference Turning a Blind Eye which launched important research by Nick Clark & Leena Kumarappan of the Working Lives Institute, which looked at the situation of some migrant domestic workers in the UK, found that few workers had contracts of employment, received payslips, or legally required minimum rest breaks.It also found that in many cases, the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) was aware of this, having received details of conditions of work as part of the annual application to renew the workers’ visas. 

In some cases letters sent by workers describing why they had changed employers (as permitted by their visas so long as type of work remains the same) alleged serious abuse including torture and indicators of trafficking for domestic servitude, yet no enquiries were made and nothing at all seems to have been done with this information.

If we are serious about having minimum standards of work for all workers, not to mention our anti trafficking commitments under the Council of Europe Convention for Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings these matters need addressing seriously. A start would surely be a firm UK Government Commitment to the proposed ILO Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers, to be voted on in Geneva early June 2011.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Update from Kalayaan's Community Advocate Kate Roberts (contd)

Sometimes this seems to work well, and some domestic workers do find good jobs in this way, other times it does not. Workers come back to us reporting that when they arrive for interview they are told completely different terms and conditions to those advertised. What is incredible is how many potential employers don’t even check that they comply with basic conditions such as the National Minimum Wage before they return the form to us, even if they go on to amend this following a phone call from us it doesn’t give us any faith that the job will be a decent one or that they have thought through their responsibilities as an employer.

Many domestic workers ‘live in’ their employers’ home. While this can be to their advantage, particularly in terms of being able to save more without paying rent or travel costs, many actively chose to live out, or rent a room, perhaps with friends, where they can go during time off, or if they are dismissed with short notice. 

Domestic workers are well aware of the disadvantages of living in, and how there are often few boundaries between working time and time off, with them going to the children at night, or employers asking them to ‘help out’ during their time off ‘you wouldn’t have time off from your own family would you?’

As increasing numbers of tribunal cases involving live in domestic workers show, when the number of hours worked are taken into account, few are paid anywhere near the National Minimum Wage (currently £5.93 an hour), let alone the living wage which is what we would recommend workers are paid at minimum. When workers are given responsibility for an employer’s children and their home it is odd to not then pay a wage which reflects the importance of their work. Yet this type of ‘helping’, ‘women’s’ work  (it is incredibly challenging for male domestic workers to find employment) is still too often not seen as having any real economic value in spite of its importance to society as well as individual families.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Update from Kalayaan's Community Advocate Kate Roberts

Coming back to Kalayaan on Tuesday after a long weekend was busy. As well as legal advice and general assistance and enquiries, many of the people who come in at the start of the week are looking for jobs.

While Kalayaan condemns exploitative domestic employment and recognises that domestic workers, particularly those who are migrants and so less likely to have support networks in the UK, are particularly vulnerable to abuse, we are also very clear that many domestic workers move on to properly paid jobs where they are respected.

One of the main services asked of us by our service users, migrant domestic workers, is help finding a job. For this reason we do offer a facility where potential employers can go onto our website, read a brief summary of employers’ responsibilities and then fill out a form describing their job, which we will advertise in Kalayaan as long as the described conditions of work comply with UK employment law.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Justice for All Rally in London Friday 3 June 2011

This rally is tomorrow, please come along and join us in supporting this cause.  If proposed cuts to legal aid go ahead as feared it will really effect migrant domestic workers, including those who have been trafficked, as there will be no legal aid for immigration or employment cases.

Do you believe in Justice for All? Join us taking action for justice at a Public rally outside the Supreme Court, London

Friday 3 June 12pm - 1pm

The Supreme Court, Parliament Square, London, SW1P 3BD,

(Nearest tube: Westminster)

Come down and help us stand up for justice, and hear from a range of inspiring speakers from across the community and voluntary sector.

The Ministry of Justice have proposed important changes to the legal aid system, which will deny hundreds of thousands of people access to Justice.

The Justice for All coalition’s rally outside the Supreme Court on Friday 3 June is one
of several events across England and Wales to mark the Day of Action for justice,
highlighting the opposition to these changes.

To show the government that a wide range of people from a diverse range of backgrounds oppose the proposed changes to legal aid.

Come and demonstrate your opposition to the changes, and hear from a range of inspiring speakers.

Justice for All is a coalition of charities, legal and advice agencies, politicians, trade unions,
community groups and members of the public campaigning for free legal advice.
Find out more and join us at

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

New London Living Wage figure announced

At a packed May Day event organised by London Citizens, the Chief Executive of Trust for London (one of Kalayaan’s funders), Bharat Mehta had the privilege of announcing the new London Living Wage figure, set annually by the Greater London Authority.

The new rate of £8.30 rose by 5.7%, which is the largest increase since its introduction.

The recent GLA report, A Fairer London: The 2011 Living Wage in London  highlights that 1 in 10 of full-time and 4 in 10 part-time workers are not paid the London Living Wage.

The event also saw the launch of the Living Wage Foundation  , the new accreditation body for this work; and the launch of a campaign organised by Fair Pensions  to persuade FTSE 100 companies to adopt the living wage.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Conference Thursday 26th May in London - 'Turning a blind eye: the British state and migrant workers' employment rights'

10am – 4.00pm
Toynbee Hall
28 Commercial St

London E1 6LS

Entitled Turning a blind eye: the British state and migrant workers' it is organised by the Working Lives Research Institute who carried out the research, looking at the enforcement of employment rights for migrant domestic workers in Britain using survey material, individual records from the UKBA and interviews with individual domestic workers.

The reseach uncovers widespread breaches of employment rights and examines the extent to which these can be, or are, detected and rectified by the State's enforcement bodies.

Speakers include:

· Dr Bridget Anderson, Centre for Migration Policy and Society, Oxford
  University, author of "Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic
  Labour" (London: Zed Books, Jan. 2000)
· Richard Murphy, Tax Research UK, founder of the Tax Justice Network
· Marissa Begonia, Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW)
· Paul Whitehouse, Chair, Gangmasters Licensing Authority
· Professor John Gabriel, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences,
  London Metropolitan University
· Leading speaker from Unite the Union· Nick Clark & Leena Kumarappan, authors
  of the  WLRI report “Turning a Blind Eye

This will be a participatory event where contributions from participants will be
encouraged. Space is limited to 100, so you are advised to register early. Registration
is free, and lunch will be provided.

Email to register
your place, with your name, organisation, and contact details.
The conference will launch new research into the experience of migrant domestic workers in the UK and their employment rights.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Immigration Update session for migrant domestic workers

English lessons at Kalayaan                                  
Kalayaan is running an immigration update session this Sunday 22nd May at 2pm. We will go through any recent changes and answer general questions.
All migrant domestic workers welcome.

13, Hippodrome Place
London, W11 4SF
Tel: +44 (0)20 7243 2942

Monday, 16 May 2011

New report from Kalayaan finds diplomatic domestic workers 20 times more likely to be in slavery

Domestic workers employed by diplomats in the UK are 20 times more likely to be in slavery than those who work in private households, according to a new report by London based migrant domestic worker charity Kalayaan.

The UK is failing to prevent slavery in diplomatic households said the charity Kalayaan
today, as they published their new research Ending the abuse: Policies that work to protect migrant domestic workers in anticipation of a Government review of the visa protections afforded to this vulnerable group of mainly female workers.  The charity finds that while 0.2% of the 15,000 domestic workers who come to the UK each year find themselves in slavery, this figure rockets up to 3.8% for those in diplomatic households.

The report details how in the last three years, domestic workers who had been working for diplomats reported to Kalayaan that they had their passports withheld (58% of those registering with Kalayaan), had not been allowed out of the house unaccompanied (63%), had worked 16 hours or more per day (53%), 7 days a week (63%) and were paid under £50 per week (50%).  In some extreme cases individuals reported having been physically assaulted (11%) and sexually abused (6%).  (2010 percentages given)

Diplomatic immunity invoked by diplomats accused of slavery is currently protecting perpetrators from facing justice and a possible 14 years in prison. The charity believe that the UK must reform the immigration rules and allow migrant domestic workers who work for diplomats to change their employer, meaning they can at least escape slavery without losing their immigration status or their ability to send money home to their families.  Only then will domestic workers feel safe enough to try and pursue justice against powerful diplomats.


Jenny Moss, Community Advocate from Kalayaan said:

“The immunity of diplomats to prosecution means that this group of migrant women are the most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse including physical and sexual abuse and given the number of such abuse that have been reported it is extremely distasteful to think the Government may be unwilling to make such a change because of perceived difficulties with ‘diplomatic relations’. We simply cannot understand why those domestic workers in the employ of diplomats are not allowed to change employer just like any other domestic worker.”

Mary, a migrant domestic worker trafficked to the UK by a diplomat from her own country said:

“Once we arrived in London, I was expected to work from half past five in the morning to ten or eleven o’clock at night. I was never given a day off during the three months that I worked there and they did not pay me at all. When I asked my employer about my salary one day, he beat me severely and told me that they weren’t going to pay me because they had paid for my air ticket and I was costing them lots of money because of the food I was eating and the water I was drinking. On another occasion, I asked him about my passport, he refused to talk to me about it and kicked me in the stomach.

In the five years since I fled from my employer, I have never been paid. The problem is that the moment someone knows you’re illegal, that you don’t have any papers, then they know that you have no rights.”

 “Ending the Abuse” draws on data from the Home Office and from Kalayaan’s extensive client database and on interviews with domestic workers. The research finds that the Overseas domestic worker visa for private households is working as intended, with 94% of domestic workers coming to the UK for a short period of time and then leaving again with their employer.

In addition to extending the private household domestic worker visa rights to those in the employer of diplomats, the report also recommends a number of measures that would prevent the exploitation, abuse and trafficking of migrant domestic workers in general.  These include the Government giving every domestic worker information about their rights in their own language as part of the visa application process; to maintain the right to settlement for domestic workers so that they are able to finally be independent of an employer’s sponsorship; to institute a bridging visa for migrant domestic workers who have become undocumented through no fault of their own; and to clarify in law that all migrant domestic workers are entitled to the national minimum wage.

Premana, a migrant domestic worker who came to the UK with a private household worked long hours with no rest day for only £25 per week, and was not allowed out of the house without her employers who kept her passport.  She endured this treatment for two long years because she had never been told her rights and didn’t know she had any other option.  She said:

“I was so scared then, they used to shout and insult me all the time.  In my new job I still work long hours but the employers treat me well and I get a good salary.  Now I have a day off and go and meet the new friends I made.  I’m so much happier... I want other domestic workers to know that whatever their employers tell them, they don’t need to be scared; in the UK they have rights.”

Monday, 9 May 2011

Good news story continued

Maria’s English is slowly improving.  She is relatively well educated and can read and write some English but struggles to speak it out loud. She says that the kids she now looks after don’t understand her language so she has to speak to them in English, it’s starting to come more fluently but she is still much quieter than her friend.

Maria says one thing to me which I think probably captures what we are trying to achieve at Kalayaan more generally.  She says of the small settlement monies “at least now they know that the law is for everyone, not just for the rich people with money”. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Good news story continued

Sunday English class at Kalayaan                             
It really makes any hard work worthwhile, when you see people like Maria and Grace* who have transformed from nervous, tired and afraid of what might happen to them, to women bubbling with enthusiasm for life.  They both managed to find new employers fairly quickly after they ran away from their initial employer who’d exploited them so badly.

Grace is learning to drive – her new employer has offered to pay for her to do this but warned her that it’s difficult to learn to drive in London – he failed twice.  He’s told her to keep trying though.  She tells me she misses her daughter but that she came here to work to make a better life for them and now that she has found a good employer this is what she is doing. 

She had to work through her days off in the past three weeks because her new employer’s family were moving house but she has just been given a long rest break to compensate her and a generous bonus for her time.  She says that “I don’t mind working hard, that is what I came here for, as long as my employer is good to me, I can feel it in my heart”.

* Their names have been changed to protect their identities.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A good news story from Kalayaan Community Advocate Jenny Moss

Sometimes working in migration can feel like an uphill struggle; David Cameron’s speech on immigration recently did nothing to reassure me that this Government were moving away from polemics and policy based on populist anxieties.  I was grateful therefore that yesterday was also a good news day.  Two domestic workers who I first met about a year ago received a settlement from their former employer.  Not a settlement that was in anyway commensurate with the hours of work they did or the money they should have been paid under the national minimum wage but it was something.  And for the domestic workers themselves it was the principle rather than the money. 

Over a cup of coffee and some cake they’d brought in to say thanks, one told me that “there were so many times I wanted to give up; even though my english is not strong, after a full day’s work with my new employers, I had to read my forty page statement until late at night checking it.  But I wanted to make sure that they won’t treat anyone else like they treated me so we didn’t give up.”

Friday, 15 April 2011

Jordan: Abused Domestic Workers Stranded

Jordan should immediately allow 24 Sri Lankan former domestic workers, many of whom were allegedly abused by their employers, to return home, Human Rights Watch said today.

The workers have been stranded in Amman since January 2011, unable to pay government-imposed fines and threatened with eviction.

Jordan is in effect punishing these workers for escaping abusive households by piling on daily fines that prevent them from returning to their families. Meanwhile, the employers, who abused the women and, as the law requires, should pay the fines, go unpunished.
Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch

See Human Rights Watch website

Friday, 8 April 2011

Call on governments worldwide to support the Home Alone campaign

 Anti-Slavery International's Home Alone: End Domestic Slavery campaign is gearing up for its most crucial time - the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June - where governments will vote as to whether a new international measure on domestic work will be created or not.

Domestic workers are often seen as home 'help' rather than a legitimate workforce meaning that they are often treated differently to all other workers who enjoy protection under the law, making them more vulnerable to exploitation and slavery. The new domestic work Convention would require countries around the world to change their laws to include domestic workers.

We need to ensure that all governments around the world throw their weight behind the convention. Whilst many have voiced strong support for a Convention, many still do not support a Convention or remain unsure.

Please ACT NOW and write to your Government to urge them to protect domestic workers everywhere.

Read more about Anti-Slavery International's campaign

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Cecilia's experience - finding somewhere to live and work

The advice worker explained that because of my case being particularly complicated due to my visa type she would find me a solicitor. The solicitor explained she would work for me and try and ask the Home Office for me to be allowed to change employers as any other domestic worker who didn’t work for a diplomat would be able to. However she also explained that this would take a long time and the Home Office might say no anyway.

In the meantime I would have to find somewhere to live and a way to support myself without having permission to work for anyone else.  I said I would like to try and make an application to the Home Office even if there was very little chance of success as I knew there was no way I could return to my country until I had some money for all the years I had worked without being paid. My family had borrowed money as I wasn’t able to send money home and there was no way I would be able to pay this back other than earning some money here. 

Surviving in the UK was very hard. No one wanted to employ me without the correct papers. The only people who would employ me would pay me almost nothing because I didn’t have a visa. Many times I would work just for somewhere to sleep and instead of making any money to send home I instead had to borrow money from friends.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Kalayaan has a volunteer internship position available - starting May 2011

Kalayaan is recruiting for a volunteer intern to cover helpline, reception and administrative tasks over the summer period.

The priority for this role will be administration - this is really important.

The ideal candidate will be available for 6 months (a minimum of three month commitment is required) starting in May 2011 for 3-4 days per week. Kalayaan is able to cover public transport expenses within London and limited lunch expenses for volunteers who spend more than 5 hours volunteering a day.

Please go to our website for more information and an application form which needs to be completed and returned by the 18 April 2011in order to apply.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Please take action: HIV positive victim of sex trafficking and rape faces imminent deportation from the UK

This is an appeal from the ngo Eaves Housing - please take action (see below)

Felicia Adjei, a vulnerable woman who was trafficked into the UK and brutally exploited in forced prostitution is facing removal to Ghana tomorrow. She is currently waiting in an immigration detention centre. 

Felicia comes from a very poor family who lived in a rural village and experienced extensive physical abuse from her father as a young girl. Eight years ago her father sent her to the UK. She thought she would study or work and send money home to support her family. She thought her father’s friends had arranged legal paperwork. She had no idea what she was about to experience. Felicia was held in a house for nearly three years. During this time men came to the house at least 3 times per week and forced her to have sex. Sometimes she was given drugs in her food. She began refusing to eat or drink but she was forced to do so with violence. Sometimes she wasn’t drugged and was physically forced to have sex with men using various sex toys that she has never seen before in her country. Sometimes she would not see the person raping her because she was drugged. If she struggled then she was beaten up by the men.  She would often bleed heavily when she was forced to have sex and suffered with severe stomach pains but was never allowed to get any medical treatment. Felicia was not paid for the work she was forced into. As a result of this trauma she is now living with HIV and became pregnant due to rape.

Felicia has only just begun to recover from the things that happened to her. She cannot recover if she is forced to return to Ghana. Not only are the relevant services not in place but the social stigma and pressures she will experience will prevent her from recovering and may endanger her life. Felicia is afraid to return to Ghana because she became pregnant out of marriage. This is considered taboo in her small village. She remembers when a young woman from the village became pregnant after being raped. The young woman was insulted and physically abused for years. The young woman became very depressed and later committed suicide. Felicia is frightened that the same thing will happen to her and does not want her life to end in this way.

Felicia is also HIV positive. People in Ghana will see this as dishonour to the family. Attitudes in Ghana towards people with HIV are such that that Felicia will face only rejection, physical abuse, and insult and will be shunned and treated as an outcast. Felicia believes returning to Ghana will have a detrimental effect not only on her mental health, but her life will also be at risk.

According to the United Nations:

… the government of Ghana lack[s] shelter facilities for victims of sex trafficking. With the interior ministers approval a trafficking victim may remain permanently in Ghana if deemed to be in the victim’s best interest though no victims were given such residency during the last year. There was no formal referral process to transfer victims in protective custody to other facilities.[1]
For these reasons it is critical that Felicia is not removed from the UK but is allowed to continue her recovery in a safe and supportive environment. The Poppy Project is calling on the government to suspend the orders to remove Felicia, to release her from the detention centre and to allow her to return to the specialist shelter where she has been supported.


Contact the airline: Felicia is set to be removed on Virgin Airlines Flight VS657 London (LHR) to Accra (ACC) at 10.20pm 1st April. Contact them on 0844 811 0000/ 0844 209 7777 or by fax 0844 209 8708 (

Contact your MP: Ask your MP to intercede on Felicia’s behalf. Find their contact details here:

– NOTES – 

The POPPY Project provides vital support and accommodation for women trafficked to the UK for forced prostitution or domestic servitude. 

The POPPY Project is run by Eaves, a women’s charity working to combat all aspects of violence against women through accommodation, support services, research, education and lobbying.

For further information about Eaves’ Poppy Project, contact Abigail Stepnitz National Coordinator Poppy Project on 07738 986501 or

Report suggests domestic worker abuse is linked to mental health issues

Psychological problems of employers are a leading cause of violence or abuse perpetrated against domestic workers in Lebanon, according to an European Union-funded report published yesterday, 30 March 2011.

While existing social prejudice and legal loopholes allow for such behavior, the personal mental health problems of the “madame” are also responsible, suggests the report entitled  An Exploratory Study of Psychoanalytic and Social Factors in the Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers by Female Employers in Lebanon.

“The reason why some women abuse [domestic workers] and others don’t … could be an unconscious problem,” said Lebanese American University professor and report author Ray Jureidini, who conducted the study on behalf of Lebanese NGO KAFA: Enough violence and Exploitation.

Read more in The Daily Star - Lebanon News:
A further report Trafficking of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon: A Legal Analysis By Kathleen Hamill has also been published. We'll let you know if they become available on the web.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Migrant domestic workers more vulnerable on a diplomatic visa

Domestic workers who come to the UK in the employment of diplomats come under different rules to those who come with none diplomatic employers.  Unlike other domestic workers, diplomatic domestic workers are not permitted to change employer outside of the diplomatic mission with which they entered. Clearly in cases where workers have suffered extreme abuse at the hands of a diplomat, including trafficking into forced labour, it is unrealistic to think it is an option for them to find a job with that same diplomat’s colleague.
This leaves domestic workers who accompany diplomats to the UK without any recourse to change employer without breaking the law and so encourages abuse by unscrupulous employers. It also leaves many diplomatic domestic workers in a position where they continue to endure unacceptable conditions of forced labour as they have no way of leaving legally. Others leave often without knowing the law and become undocumented and so vulnerable to further abuse.
Diplomatic employers’ immunity to prosecution only makes the situation worse, as these employers are less likely to comply with basic UK employment law. Many diplomatic domestic workers are unable to return home as they haven’t been paid for long periods of time and need these unpaid wages to pay off debts.
Kalayaan is campaigning for diplomatic domestic workers to have the same basic protection, to change employers, as other domestic workers, allowing them to escape abuse.

Monday, 21 March 2011

BBC news - Pastor jailed for trafficking people into domestic ''slavery'

A church pastor has been jailed for 11 and a half years after being found guilty of trafficking people into the UK for use as domestic "slaves" at her home in Barking, east London.

Lucy Adeniji brought two children and a 21-year-old woman to the UK from Africa illegally and used them as servants.

Adeniji told the victims' parents they would have a better life in the UK, but instead viciously beat them if they failed to please her.

The abuse only came to light when one of the victims escaped from Adeniji's home after being beaten.

She was convicted of 17 different counts at Isleworth Crown Court.

See for more information

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Harrow woman convicted of keeping Tanzanian woman as domestic slave

A former hospital director has been convicted of abusing a domestic worker in her employment and forcing her to effectively work as a slave, in what is thought to be the UK's first prosecution for such an offence.

Mwanahamisi Mruke was trafficked from Tanzania to Britain and made to work 18-hour days for over three years carrying out chores at her home in Harrow.

Had Mruke been paid at the minimum wage for all the hours she worked for Khan during her employment of three years and four months, she would have received £107,062.72, the court heard.

Read more on the Guardian website

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Three million ‘maids’ abused in Middle East

A survey by the Saudi magazine Sayidaty entitled ‘Maids Rights’ reveals that more than three million maids in the Arab world are subjected to conditions akin to slavery .

And the evidence is that their situation is worsening as the people's revolution sweeps the Arab world.

An Indonesian domestic worker in Jordan said, "If you go to the Indonesian embassy in Jordan you will see hundreds of women who ran away from their employer."

See Al Jazeera news arfticle for more

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Cecilia's experience - taken to Kalayaan

The next day they took me to lots of different offices on lots of buses, I couldn’t believe how far we travelled and how busy everything was.

I was so confused and knew I would never find my way by myself. I think the people in the offices were trying to help but we often had to wait a long time. Lots of other people were waiting who also wanted help. After a few days they took me to a place called Kalayaan. In their offices were many other ladies who also worked in people’s houses.

As I was waiting outside I spoke to some of the ladies in my language who told me not to worry, that Kalayaan would look at my visa and everything would be okay. I was very happy I had managed to take my passport with me. However when we were seen and the lady looked in my passport I knew from her face that something was wrong.

To protect the confidentiality of individual domestic workers who come to Kalayaan, Cecilia’s story is made up of a composite of real case studies.

Monday, 14 March 2011

How human trafficking can be a middle class crime

“Domestic servitude ... is humiliating, is a violation of people’s dignity and is deeply traumatising.”  along with other advocates against trafficking for forced labour, Jenny Moss, community advocate at Kalayaan speaks about some migrant domestic workers experiences on Euronews website

Bridget Anderson, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, said the many middle class people who do not consider themselves racist speak of domestic workers in a different light. She read an example, the words of a piano teacher from London, speaking of domestic workers:

“They’re foreign and they’re illegal and they’re scared and timid and so they’re not going to take up space. They’re going to be very, very small and that is generally easier to live with than someone who feels that this is their home. They’re in really bad situations… They’re terrified.”

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Cecilia's experience - escape and shelter

I lost track of time but as it was beginning to get dark a man stopped and asked if I was ok. He spoke my language. I was so happy to hear someone speaking my language but I was also too scared to talk to him because he was a man I didn’t know and anyway my employers had always told me never to trust anyone I met in the UK. However I was also tired and cold and hungry and felt I had no choice.

I told him I was not okay and that I had nowhere to go.  He told me to go to the police station but I think he knew I would not do it because then he told me he knew somewhere I could go for a little while.

He took me to a restaurant and seemed to know the people who worked there because he spoke with them for some time. Then they bought me food and told me I could sleep there while they tried to help me. They lived upstairs and were a family.

I was still very scared but since it was mostly the women who spoke to me I thought maybe it would be okay. One of the girls even gave me some of her clothes as they could see how cold I was in what I was wearing.

To protect the confidentiality of individual domestic workers who come to Kalayaan, Cecilia’s story is made up of a composite of real case studies.

Friday, 11 March 2011

New report on trafficking for domestic servitude published

Unprotected Work, Invisible Exploitation: Trafficking for the Purpose of Domestic Servitude, a report by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, has just been published and released in London this week.
It reveals that this hidden form of trafficking can be as damaging as trafficking for sexual exploitation.

“Domestic servitude is one of the worst forms of trafficking in human beings,” says Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, OSCE special representative for combating trafficking in human beings. “It can take place because of the context of an ‘under-regulated sector.’” The domestic work sector needs better regulation.”

Read the report here

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ceclia's experience - abuse, escape

After a long time, maybe several months I realised that I had not been paid. I was very embarrassed to ask, but I eventually asked my female employer. She looked annoyed and asked if I did not appreciate how much money they had spent to make my papers and bring me to the UK. I felt too shy to ask again and just carried on working.

I had no day off and no time to myself. I often felt hungry and cold. After I had been here maybe four or six months it must have been a weekend, the family were at home, the female employer was out with the children and the male employer came to me and told me he wanted me to sleep with him and that it was part of my duty. If I refused he told me he would tell his wife who would be very angry and they would tell the police I had stolen their things. He said he would also tell my family that I had run away with a man in the UK. He told me that on the visa I had I was not allowed to leave them and if I did leave the police would look for me and send me back to them. I had no choice. This carried on over the next year or so whenever the rest of his family were out. I thought about killing myself and didn’t know what I could do. I wasn’t managing to send any money home and had no contact with my family since I came to the UK.

One day I was cleaning and I saw a pile of passports on the desk. I looked inside them and one of them had my photo in. I decided that this was my only chance to escape. No one else was in the house at the time. I grabbed my passport and a few things in a plastic bag and climbed out of a ground floor window. I just ran and did not know where I was going.

Eventually when I was exhausted and tired I sat down on a bench and cried.

To protect the confidentiality of individual domestic workers who come to Kalayaan, Cecilia’s story is made up of a composite of real case studies.