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October 17, 2019

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 (2014 – 2020)
  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
  55. Katharine Bryant, Lead of European Engagement, Minderoo Foundation, Walk Free
  56. Marley Morris, Associate Director for Immigration, Trade and EU Relations, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
  57. Caroline Lucas, Member of Parliament for Brighton, Pavilion
  58. Veronica Deutsch, Executive Director, Nanny Solidarity Network
  59. Simpson Millar Solicitors
  60. Daniel Sohege, Director of Stand For All

If you would like to join Kalayaan and our supporters to ask for a change in policy, please email Avril Sharp, Policy Officer at Your name will then be added to the above list.

Last updated: 3 March 2021