Migrant domestic workers must not be forgotten in the fight to battle coronavirus

Kalayaan has been closely following government guidance with respect to the various provisions being introduced in response to coronavirus. We welcome many of these measures to alleviate the distress faced by some of the most vulnerable groups in society. We do however remain concerned that the unique circumstances facing migrant domestic workers has not been considered in the government’s response to date.

Kalayaan has received a number of reports from workers and those supporting them that they have been dismissed without cause or notice and face homelessness, destitution and exposure to the virus placing themselves and others at risk. We have also heard reports that workers are having to endure abuse and exploitation for fear that they will be thrown out and have no form of support available to them.

The terms of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa are that workers are employed full time for one employer and have no recourse to public funds. (Workers are not permitted to be self-employed). This means that those who are dismissed, perhaps because of an employer’s personal financial situation, are in breach of the terms of their visa and have no access to support including housing or financial assistance. Government advice remains that if you are in the UK with limited leave to remain and plan to remain here and apply to extend your visa, you must continue to do this. For those workers who have been laid off and are unable to find re-employment, they face becoming undocumented, at risk of exploitation and having to do battle with the hostile environment.

On 17 April 2020, Kalayaan raised our concerns in a letter to the Ministers of Immigration and Safeguarding together with recommendations to keep this vulnerable workforce safe and prevent them from remaining in situations of abuse or having to accept precarious employment to avoid destitution. Our letter can be found here.

Among our recommendations, we are calling on the government to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds condition for all ODW visa holders, including victims of modern slavery, to enable them to access the support they will need in the event their employment is terminated or if they need to flee an abusive employer. We also recommend a concession for ODW visa holders with an automatic extension of 6 months to their leave to enable them to be safe during the lockdown, adhere to government guidance on social distancing measures and remain documented.

Update: 1 June 2020

The Home Office responded to Kalayaan’s letter on 13 May 2020. Unfortunately this failed to engage with the substance of the issues we raised. We have written to them again asking they consider the recommendations we set out to ensure that all ODW visa holders are protected during the pandemic.

Our letter in response can be found here.

For details of other campaigns we are supporting during the pandemic, check out our Publications page here.

 


Dignity, not destitution: the impact of differential rights of work for migrant domestic workers referred to the National Referral Mechanism

Ahead of Anti-Slavery Day 2019, Kalayaan has produced new research which examines the impact of the denial of work on migrant domestic workers with outstanding trafficking or modern slavery claims before the Home Office.

Migrant domestic workers are issued a visa for a maximum of six months. Many workers who register with Kalayaan tell us they are trapped or prevented from leaving their employers in the UK and suffer severe labour rights violations amounting to modern slavery.

When workers escape, they often speak with strangers to avoid becoming homeless and destitute. Through word of mouth, many come to Kalayaan to seek advice and assistance about their rights in the UK.

Only those workers identified as potential victims of trafficking or slavery, who enter the National Referral Mechanism and receive a positive reasonable grounds decision whilst their original six month visa is still valid have their leave extended and have permission to work. This is crucial for workers as their focus is to find alternative employment, a decent employer and to send remittances home to their families.

Those workers who enter the NRM and receive a positive reasonable grounds decision after their visa has expired do not have permission to work in the UK. They must wait until the second and final decision is made by the Home Office, known as the conclusive grounds decision.

On average, migrant domestic workers who are in the NRM face a wait of 24 months to receive conclusive grounds decisions. In 2018, the longest wait for a worker was 37 months. This can be a time of confusion, uncertainty and hopelessness.

Kalayaan’s research, Dignity, not destitution, looks at the impact the denial of work has on victims of trafficking and slavery pending their conclusive grounds decision. It reveals that without work, workers are drawn into destitution and pressurised into entering informal and exploitative work.

For Anti-Slavery Day 2019, Kalayaan and 20+ individuals and organisations have written an open letter to the Immigration Minister asking that she review this policy and the effect it has on this vulnerable workforce. We call on her to allow all migrant domestic workers in the NRM permission to work.

Our research Dignity, not destitution can be found here.

Our open letter can be found here.

A list of the co-signatories to our letter are:

  1. Jess Phillips, Member of Parliament for Birmingham, Yardley
  2. Vernon Coaker, Member of Parliament for Gedling (1997 – 2019) and trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation
  3. Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union
  4. Jasmine O’Connor OBE, Chief Executive, Anti-Slavery International
  5. Clare Collier, Advocacy Director, Liberty (National Council for Civil Liberties)
  6. Nicole Francis, Chief Executive, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association
  7. James Ewins QC, Barrister and Author of the Independent Review of the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa in 2015
  8. Patrick Stoakes, Policy and Programmes Manager, British Institute of Human Rights
  9. Fizza Qureshi and Jilna Shah, Chief Executive Officers, Migrant Rights Network
  10. Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
  11. Kate Roberts, Chair, Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group
  12. Joanna Ewart-James, Executive Director, Freedom United
  13. Phoebe Dimacali, Founder, Filipino Domestic Workers Association
  14. Gisela Valle, Chair of the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group and Director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service
  15. Lucila Granada, Chief Executive, Focus on Labour Exploitation
  16. Professor Bridget Anderson, Director of Migration Mobilities Bristol, University of Bristol
  17. Marissa Begonia, Founder, The Voice of Domestic Workers
  18. Amuerfina R. Reyes, Labor Attache, Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Embassy of the Philippines in London
  19. Wilson Solicitors LLP, Tottenham, London
  20. Minh Dang, Director, Survivor Alliance
  21. Professor Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham
  22. Jean Demars, Development Lead, Public Interest Law Centre
  23. Victoria Marks, Director, Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit
  24. Professor Gary Craig, Professor of Social Justice, Visiting Professor , University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  25. Professor Louise Waite, Professor of Human Geography, School of Geography, University of Leeds
  26. Ian Kane, Legal Services Manager, Consonant
  27. Anna Fisher, Chair, Nordic Model Now!
  28. Sally Daghlian OBE, Chief Executive, Praxis Community Projects
  29. Phillipa Roberts, Director of Legal Policy, Hope for Justice
  30. Dr Ella Cockbain, Associate Professor in Security and Crime Science, UCL
  31. Urmila Bhoola, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
  32. Maya Esslemont, Director, After Exploitation
  33. Claire Waxman, London’s Victims Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
  34. Colm O’Cinneide, Professor of Law, UCL Faculty of Laws
  35. Professor Hugh Collins, Department of Law, LSE
  36. Daniel Trilling, Journalist and Author
  37. Simon Cox, Open Society Justice Initiative
  38. Professor Rosie Cox, Professor of Geography, Birkbeck University of London
  39. Professor Lizzie Barmes, Professor of Labour Law & Co-Director QMUL School of Law Centre for Research on Law Equality and Diversity
  40. Maya Goodfellow, Author and Academic
  41. Professor Lydia Hayes, Kent Law School, University of Kent
  42. Andrew Smith, Coordinator of the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership
  43. Catherine Briddick, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford
  44. Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission, International Organization for Migration, UK
  45. Professor Valerio De Stefano, Institute for Labour Law, KU Leuven, Belgium
  46. Dr Alicia Kidd, Postdoctoral Researcher, The Wilberforce Institute
  47. Nadine El-Enany, Senior Lecturer in Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Race and Law, Birkbeck College
  48. Dr Ruth Van Dyke, Visiting Fellow, Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, St Mary’s University
  49. Kate Green, Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston
  50. The Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Frances Faull
  51. Guilene Marco, Policy Committee, Women’s Equality Party
  52. Dr Inga Thiemann, Lecturer in Law, University of Exeter Law School
  53. Zlakha Ahmed MBE, CEO, Apna Haq
  54. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

If you would like to join Kalayaan and our supporters to ask for a change in policy, please email avril@kalayaan.org.uk. Your name will then be added to the above list.

Last updated: 19 June 2020

 

 

 


Government risk undermining claim to be world leaders in combatting trafficking and protecting victims

Long term care and support for victims of trafficking is inadequate in the UK but our government could do more. The lack of any safeguarding and protective measures means victims can fall back into exploitation once formally identified by the authorities. How can this be right when the Prime Minister wants the UK to lead the world in tackling this crime? Victims suffer physical and psychological scars which can take years to heal. That’s why Kalayaan offers support tailored to individual need and provides assistance for so long as is needed to enable victims to go on to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

Kalayaan is a member of the Free For Good campaign along with a number of leading anti-trafficking charities and businesses. The campaign backs draft legislation which would enshrine in law the support victims need to move on with their lives and be free for good. The bill – called the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill – started its journey in the House of Lords in 2017. It passed through without challenge. It offers victims who have entered the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and who have been accepted as trafficked or enslaved time to rebuild their lives. It offers them time to seek counselling, to obtain compensation, to pursue criminal charges and to seek justice against their perpetrators.

The bill calls for leave to remain for 12 months for recognised victims.

The government is concerned that an automatic policy granting leave will incentivise some individuals to make fraudulent claims but this does not take into account the fact potential victims can only be referred by an authorised body (including the Home Office and police) who have been trained to spot signs of exploitation. Unlike other immigration applications or asylum applicants, victims of trafficking have to be referred by a designated first responder to the NRM. There is no risk to the system being abused as any fraudulent claims will be filtered out and ultimately issued a negative decision. There is also provision in the bill for those convicted of sexual or violent crimes to be excluded from being granted leave in the UK.

Some might conflate this as an immigration issue but 12 months is the minimum time that recognised victims of trafficking need to recover and start to move on. Without this time and the guaranteed support the bill offers, victims remain at risk. Kalayaan sees and speaks with victims every day. We see this risk first hand. Currently victims are left destitute and homeless when they exit the NRM and some enter back into exploitation as a means to survive. It’s a systemic issue which affects women, men and children, UK nationals, EEA nationals and third country nationals. The cycle has to be broken.

And it can be, but not without government support. The bill has its second reading in the House of Commons on 23 November 2018 but is currently the 22nd bill to be debated that day. This listing means it will not be reached and will be unlikely to make any further progress. 

The time for action is now. The government can no longer say they are providing adequate support when victims are recognised as trafficked but provided with no recognition, support or protection.

Work is underway to reform the NRM but 12 months since the reforms were announced we are left with more questions than answers and still to see any tangible improvements. The reforms do include extending the time given to victims to exit the NRM from 14 days to 45 but this will just postpone the cliff edge that victims face and as noted in a recent Westminster debate, is not a pathway to recovery. This reform is also not due to take effect until early next year.

The government also seeks to rely on the regulations for supporting victims which are still to be produced under section 50 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. These will not be made public and potentially not up to scrutiny unlike the bill which was drafted in consultation with experts and front line organisations who support victims.

Ultimately the reforms to the NRM do not guarantee the time and support victims need to recover which the bill does. The government must choose to protect victims of trafficking from further harm and abuse. Only then can weclaim to be world leaders in this field.

Kalayaan asks the Prime Minister to commit to debating the bill at second reading and not to let this opportunity pass. Let’s put victims first and give them the time they need to live free for good.

For further information on the bill and how it would address the issues faced by migrant domestic workers, see:

Free For Good briefing for Westminster debate on Modern Slavery

Kalayaan briefing to the House of Lords, Second Reading


Tendering process for information meetings fails to empower workers and penalize exploitative employers

Last week the Home Office opened the tendering process inviting bids from organisations wishing to run the service delivering information sessions to migrant domestic workers newly arrived in the UK. The deadline for return of bids is 13 July 2018.

These sessions were originally conceived to assist abused and exploited workers to make informed decisions about their situation in the UK, including taking practical self-help steps to leave abusive employers and support to do so.

Kalayaan and members of an advisory group made up of individuals with relevant expertise, including James Ewins QC, raised concerns over the draft requirements for the tender and the impact they would have on vulnerable and exploited workers coming to the UK. We are disappointed that we have not been able to review the revised tender before it was finalized and that some of the recommendations made in our minimum standards are considered outside the scope of the pilot. These were drafted in consultation with migrant domestic workers and advocates providing them with direct support and were designed to ensure workers were made aware of the information meetings prior to and after their arrival in the UK.

A summary of our concerns on the tender can be found here.

 

 


Kalayaan and experts publish minimum standards for ODW information meetings

In January 2018, the Home Office announced their proposed timeline for the implementation of information meetings for migrant domestic workers newly arrived in the UK. They have stated their intention to run a 6 month pilot due to commence in July 2018.

Information meetings were originally conceived by James Ewins QC, author of the independent review into the terms of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa, which identified procedural failings in ensuring that workers knew of their rights prior to their arrival in the UK.

Kalayaan has worked in partnership with a number of experts and front line practitioners to produce some minimum standards that we consider are essential to informing the scope and delivery of the meetings. We have also included recommendations on the visa application process through to arriving in the UK and being requested to attend a meeting. In doing so, we hope to maximize the opportunities for workers and employers to be made aware of the meetings as the Home Office has stated they have no legal power to compel a worker to attend.

The Home Office has yet to announce what safeguards they will put in place should a worker disclose they are being abused or exploited at an information meeting. It is crucial that a worker is not left having to return to their employer but can access safe and emergency accommodation and receive further information and advice concerning their rights as a worker.

The minimum standards can be accessed on our Publications page here.

If your organisation is considering bidding for this service and would like to know more about our recommendations please contact Avril Sharp, Policy Officer at avril@kalayaan.org.uk or call 0207 243 2942.


Help us reach out to more migrant domestic workers

Do you work with or provide support to migrant communities in the UK? Could you help us reach out to more migrant domestic workers? Kalayaan would love to hear from you

Kalayaan is developing a new outreach model and is keen to hear from NGOs, charities and businesses across the UK who support or speak to migrants in order to raise awareness of the independent services Kalayaan provides.

We want to be able to reach out to communities who include mainly – but not exclusively – Filipino, Indian and Indonesian migrant domestic workers who might need our help. Kalayaan can provide immigration advice and services and discuss any employment issues workers may be having with their employer in the UK. All services are free and confidential and are designed to empower workers so they know and can enforce their rights in the UK.

As part of this work we have developed some materials with our contact details on which we would be happy to share with different organisations. These materials include posters in various sizes and leaflets with details of our services and how we are campaigning for better protections for workers. We would love to have these displayed in community centres and in public places across the UK so that more workers can learn of our services and how to get in touch with us if they ever need help. We have also designed some banner pens with our contact details. All of our materials are produced in English, Tagalog, Hindi and Bahasa.

If you would like to help Kalayaan reach more workers or to find out more, please get in touch with us: outreach@kalayaan.org.uk.

Blog by Miela Lilles (Kalayaan Volunteer)


Kalayaan backs campaign to ensure victims of modern slavery can live free for good

Kalayaan calls on the government to ensure that all recognised victims of human trafficking and modern slavery are provided with long term care and support to guarantee their security, recovery and safety.

An inexcusable lack of support

In England and Wales, there is no automatic entitlement to ongoing assistance or practical support once a victim is formally recognised by the authorities. Victims who have been receiving support whilst waiting for a final determination on their trafficking claims, often for months and sometimes years, currently have only 14 days to exit support services and find alternative accommodation and means to survive. The lack of a guaranteed pathway to further support coupled with only 14 days for a recognised survivor to access mainstream services leaves them at real risk of homelessness, destitution and re-trafficking.

The risk of being forced into exploitative working and living arrangements is compounded for migrant domestic workers who are accepted as trafficked but not granted discretionary leave to remain. The Modern Slavery Act states that provision must be made for a migrant domestic worker to apply for further leave to remain as a recognised victim of trafficking, however this leave is restricted to work as a domestic worker in a private household without recourse to public funds. An application for further leave needs to be made within 28 days of being formally recognised and documentary evidence provided on how the domestic worker will maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds. This will be impossible for those residing in safe house accommodation, who have not had permission to work whilst they are waiting for their trafficking claim to be determined and are then made to leave support services within 14 days of being identified. Additionally, if a domestic worker has an outstanding protection claim, their application for further leave will not be processed until their protection claim is determined first. This leaves recognised victims of trafficking facing an undeterminable length of time waiting, no longer eligible for support as a victim and without permission to work. This is inconsistent with those victims granted discretionary leave to remain who have outstanding protection claims who can otherwise work or access financial support.

In March 2017, Kalayaan and a coalition of anti trafficking organisations providing direct support and advocacy to victims co-authored a report calling on the government to ensure all recognised victims are given a meaningful rehabilitation period for a minimum of 12 months. In April 2017 the Work and Pensions Select Committee published their report which found an inexcusable lack of support for victims left them destitute whilst their abusers go free. The Committee echoed our recommendations and called for all recognised victims to be given at least one year’s leave to remain with recourse to benefits and services, allowing victims to receive advice and support and the time needed to plan their next steps.

 

In response, the government has made a series of announcements as part of the reforms being made to the National Referral Mechanism and the support being offered to victims after they are identified. They have announced their intention to provide victims with a longer period of move on support from 14 days to 45 days and drop in services for up to 6 months to aid the transition. Whilst this is a welcome first step, it does not guarantee the security and stability victims need to recover from the ordeal of being trafficked.

The government does not agree that all victims should be granted discretionary leave to remain. Their response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee states a blanket policy ‘risks incentivising individuals to make false trafficking claims in an attempt to fraudulently obtain leave to remain or delay removal’. There is no evidence to substantiate this. This argument forgets that victims cannot consent to being trafficked and traffickers do not seek to exploit people with the aim that they should escape and receive leave to remain with recourse to benefits and services. The identification process will also ensure that any fraudulent claims are filtered out and issued negative decisions. The call for long term support is for those individuals conclusively accepted by the authorities as trafficked.

Supporting modern slavery victims to live free for good

Kalayaan is proud to support the Free For Good campaign in partnership with a number of other leading UK anti trafficking charities and organisations. The campaign backs legislation that enshrines victim support into law and has been set up to mobilise support for the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill which would guarantee all recognised victims to be given leave to remain and specialist support tailored to individual need for 12 months. The bill specifies the minimum standards of support that victims must receive, ensuring that no victim falls between the gaps at risk of further exploitation or harm.

Please visit the Free for Good website to learn more about the campaign and to ask your MP to pledge their support and back the bill as it proceeds through the House of Lords into the House of Commons.

The bill is currently in the House of Lords awaiting a date for committee stage. The bill received cross party support at second reading and Kalayaan wishes to express particular thanks to Baroness Cox for highlighting the difficulties still faced by migrant domestic workers in spite of recent provisions.

Kalayaan’s briefing for second reading of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill is available here.


Supreme Court allows appeal for trafficked domestic worker on Anti Slavery Day 2017

Kalayaan is delighted that on Anti Slavery Day 2017, the Supreme Court has handed down judgments in two cases in which domestic workers in diplomatic households challenged the immunity of their employers and that the domestic workers have won in both cases.

Ms Reyes, a claimed victim of trafficking who had been exploited in domestic servitude, brought a claim before the Employment Tribunal against the Saudi Arabian diplomat and his wife who had employed her. She claimed she had suffered racial discrimination, harassment and had not been paid the National Living Wage. The Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal upheld the defence of immunity raised by her employers and refused her claims.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal on the basis that Mr and Mrs Al-Malaki are no longer shielded by immunity because his posting in the UK finished, the employment of Ms Reyes was not in the course of his official functions and, as such, no residual immunity could apply.

Although it was not necessary to decide the case, the majority of the Court (Lord Wilson, Lady Hale and Lord Clarke) expressed the view that the law has developed since the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations, so that today human trafficking should be regarded as a ‘commercial activity’ outwith diplomatic immunity, when it comes to challenges in the civil courts, even while the diplomat is in post.

Kalayaan intervened in proceedings in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court and provided the court with evidence to demonstrate that trafficking in human beings is inherently commercial and that it is outside a diplomat’s official functions.

Consistent with the internationally accepted definition of trafficking in human beings, Kalayaan argued that all persons who knowingly engage in trafficking, from recruiting a domestic worker through to the acquisition and receipt of a person are treated in law and policy as equally engaged and complicit in the activity.

Kalayaan provided valuable evidence to the Court setting out how all the links in the chain of the illicit trade of human trafficking fuel the exploitation of people such as Ms Reyes. The Court specifically referred to Kalayaan’s evidence on how diplomatic agents can exploit their domestic workers with impunity relying on their diplomatic immunity.

Meanwhile in the case of Benkarabouche, Ms Benkarabouche was employed in the Sudanese embassy in London as a member of the domestic staff, Ms Janah in the Libyan Embassy. Following dismissal, they issued claims in the Employment Tribunal but the States of Libya and Sudan claimed immunity.  The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal that State immunity did not stop Ms Benkarabouche and Ms Janah bringing claims.  Insofar as the State Immunity Act 1978 said that it did, it was incompatible with their right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their employment law rights derived from EU law.

Avril Sharp, Policy Officer for Kalayaan says:

 These cases were about access to justice for domestic workers, including those who had been trafficked to the UK and exploited in domestic servitude and forced labour. Human trafficking and modern slavery are grave human rights violations. We are very encouraged by Lord Wilson’s comments that “the relevant “activity” is not just the so-called employment but the trafficking; the employer of the migrant is an integral part of the chain” and that exploitation drives the entire exercise from recruitment onwards.

 Kalayaan will continue to support domestic workers and assist them to bring cases before the employment tribunal to ensure their employers are held to account. Diplomatic immunity should not act as a bar to enforcing rights and is at odds with the UK’s stated aims of combatting and preventing modern slavery. We hope that when the case is remitted to the Employment Tribunal Ms Reyes will finally be able to achieve justice.  

 Zubier Yazdani, partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn who represented Kalayaan in Reyes says:

These successful appeals represent a significant inroad into chipping away at the veil of immunity that has so far shielded diplomats who have trafficked their domestic workers.

 The Court in Reyes held that employing a domestic worker to perform the kind of work that Ms Reyes did was not within a diplomat’s official functions and that therefore Mr and Mrs Al-Malki could not claim immunity once Mr Al-Malki had left his diplomatic post.

 The binding part of the decision did not confront whether the trafficking of a worker by a diplomat was a commercial activity.

Lord Wilson, Lady Hale and Lord Clarke expressed the view that that there were good reasons why domestic workers in Ms Reyes’ position should be given a remedy. As Lord Wilson stated,

‘.. it would be a strong thing for this court to diverge from the US jurisprudence …… and to adopt the robust interpretation of article 31(1) for which Ms Reyes contends. On the other hand it is difficult for this court to forsake what it perceives to be a legally respectable solution and instead to favour a conclusion that its system cannot provide redress for an apparently serious case of domestic servitude here in our capital city.’

The Supreme Court has left the door open for another case to revisit the issue.

 

Notes for editors

Kalayaan is a registered charity established in 1987. Kalayaan is the leading UK charity providing advice, advocacy and support to migrant domestic workers. Kalayaan is a UK designated First Responder to the National Referral Mechanism, the UK framework for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking.

Article 39(2) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that immunity normally ceases when the diplomat leaves the country or on expiry of a reasonable period in which to do so. Acts performed in the exercise of his functions as a member of the mission will continue to be shielded by immunity.

Lord Sumption gives the leading judgment, but Lord Wilson, Lady Hale and Lord Clarke, thus the majority of the Court, do not agree with him on the question of whether trafficking is a commercial activity.  In the end, the case did not turn on this, because it was decided on the basis that because Mr Al-Maliki was no longer in post, he no longer enjoyed immunity for actions outside his diplomatic functions.

For further coverage and analysis of the judgments, please visit our News and Resources pages on our website.

For further information contact:

Avril Sharp, Policy Officer: avril@kalayaan.org.uk

Alison Harvey, Chair of Kalayaan: aliromah@btinternet.com

Zubier Yazdani, Partner, Deighton Pierce Glynn: ZYazdani@dpglaw.co.uk

 


Still in the dark, still disempowered

Today marks 12 months since changes were made to the immigration rules for migrant domestic workers. These changes followed the independent review by James Ewins who was asked to assess how far the then existing arrangements for workers were effective in protecting them from abuse. One of the main recommendations in the review and accepted by the government, was the introduction of group information meetings. These should provide a safe, comfortable and confidential space for workers to get independent information, advice and support concerning their employment and immigration rights while at work in the UK. They are also an opportunity for workers to come together, socialise and share their experiences with each other.

More than 12 months have passed since the government responded to the independent review and made changes to the immigration rules. During this time approximately 17,000 domestic workers will have arrived in the UK to work for their employer. Regrettably the government has still to implement the information meetings so workers remain uninformed of their rights in the UK. Unfortunately the changes made to the immigration rules are of no worth to domestic workers who are not aware of and are able to enforce their rights.

In the last 12 months Kalayaan has continued to register domestic workers who are unaware of the terms of their visa, including the right to change employer and that this is not conditional upon proving abuse. Workers report not knowing what the National Minimum Wage is, that they should retain control of their passport, have a copy of their employment contract and have access to healthcare.

One of these clients was Leela who arrived in the UK on a domestic worker visa issued after April 2016. Leela was forced to accompany her employer to the UK as she was tied under the kafala system in Saudi Arabia which prevents workers from leaving their employers without their permission. Leela sought work abroad to help support her family who are reliant on her remittances to pay for basic essentials including food, clothes and rent.

After Leela arrived in the UK, her passport was taken from her. She stayed with her employer and their family in a hotel in London. She slept on the floor and was given no food to eat. She was responsible for her employer’s children and expected to be on call 24/7. She was not allowed outside unaccompanied. She survived by stealing the children’s food. She was never paid for her work as her employer told her it had cost a lot of money to bring her to the UK. Leela decided to run away as she could no longer endure working long hours with no food and no money.

When Leela came to Kalayaan she did not know she had the right to leave her employer and work for someone else. She says if she had known she had rights, she wouldn’t have tolerated her treatment and would have left her abusive employer a lot earlier.

Kalayaan has been informed that the government cannot make information meetings compulsory as there is no provision in law to make it a condition of the visa. The effect of this means that those who have no or severe restrictions placed on their freedom, those who need this information most, will not be in a position to attend which undermines the reasons behind introducing information meetings. This is at complete odds with the recommendation made in the independent review which discusses why a voluntary system would be wholly inadequate and why all evidence points to a mandatory condition to ensure workers fundamental rights are protected.

For more information please contact Avril Sharp at Kalayaan: avril@kalayaan.org.uk.

 


Training from Kalayaan : Migrant domestic workers, their rights as workers and as victims of modern slavery – 9 February 2017

Location: London

Address: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, 65 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1HS

Date: Tuesday 9 February 2017 at 2pm (2 hours)

Cost: £60.00 per person

In March 2016 the government responded to the independent review of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa by James Ewins in which he was asked to assess how far the then existing arrangements for Overseas Domestic Workers were effective in protecting workers from abuse. The review found that ‘the existence of a tie to a specific employer and the absence of a universal right to change employer and apply for extensions of the visa are incompatible with the reasonable protection of overseas domestic workers while in the UK’. The review made a number of recommendations, however the government chose to implement only some through changes to the Immigration Rules in April 2016.

This training explores the history of the domestic worker visa from 1998 up until the changes made in April 2016 to the Immigration Rules. It will provide practitioners with the knowledge to identify indicators of domestic servitude and the rights for those referred and recognised through the National Referral Mechanism as a victim of trafficking or modern day slavery, following the changes made in April 2016. Kalayaan anticipates a number of issues with some of the changes made so these will also be explored and practitioners made aware of how best to prepare for them.

This training is essential for any firm representing migrant domestic workers.

The training is delivered by Marta Bratek, immigration solicitor with 10 years of immigration law practice experience and Avril Sharp, level 3 OISC advisor, former legal officer for the POPPY Project and a policy advocate for Kalayaan.

This training is suitable for:

  • Solicitors
  • Caseworkers and paralegals
  • Firms regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner

For relevant CPD competencies related to the new SRA/OISC schemes click  below:

https://sra.org.uk/solicitors/cpd.page

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/oiscs-reviewed-cpd-scheme

How to book:

Please email your full name and name of your firm to avril@kalayaan.org.uk to secure a place. We will then confirm your place and provide details on making payment.