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.