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