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.