Visa renewal application update- for migrant domestic workers who entered the UK before April 2012

Immigration Health Surcharge

In April 2015 the UK introduced an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This is a new requirement that in order to apply to renew your domestic worker visa you need to pay a set amount towards the right to access the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

The charge for migrant domestic workers is £200. There is currently a problem with the Home Office website which means you will be charged £100. The Home Office have advised that you will be charged the additional £100 and that you should include a short letter with your application explaining that you understand that they are aware of the technical problem and will charge you the remainder.

You need to pay this before you apply to renew your visa. You will be given a reference number when you pay which you must enter on your FLR(0) application form.

You need to pay the charge online and you will need a debit or credit card.

You need to log on to https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application/pay and follow the instructions to register and pay the charge.

You will be given a reference number which you will need to enter onto your FLR(0) form.

If you need help with any of this please call Kalayaan on 020 7243 2942 to make an appointment at least a month before your visa is due to expire.

Required Contract of Employment

All FLR(0) visa renewal applications must now include this UKVI contract which can be found at appendix 7 of the immigration rules.


Lost opportunity as the Modern Slavery Bill leaves migrant domestic workers tied to employers

On the 25th March the House of Lords voted against Lord Hylton’s amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill which would have allowed migrant domestic workers in the UK to change employers, doing much to prevent abuse.

The Commons amendment in lieu, proposed by the Government on the 17th March, is included in the Bill. Following this amendment migrant domestic workers who have been found by the Government’s National Referral Mechanism to have been trafficked may receive a six month visa as a domestic worker.

The Commons’ amendment does not improve the current situation for domestic workers. In spite of this amendment migrant domestic workers in the UK remain tied to their employers, and will have no protection and security upon escaping employers until they have a positive NRM decision. This means workers would be expected to escape from their employers and approach the authorities while their immigration status is still insecure. Kalayaan and others have highlighted the shortcomings of this amendment which rather than empowering workers and so going some way to prevent abuse, waits until migrant domestic workers have become victims and have approached the authorities before offering any protection. This is especially concerning given that evidence to date shows that since being tied to their employers fewer workers are coming forward.

The Government have commissioned a review into the current tied visa which Kalayaan and others will submit evidence to. The review is due to report in July 2015.


The Modern Slavery Bill has left migrant domestic workers open to abuse

17th March 2015
Shamefully, MPs in the House of Commons have voted against the protections against slavery for migrant domestic workers. These basic protections, which allowed migrant domestic workers in the UK to change employer and to apply to renew their visa, had been voted into the Modern Slavery Bill by the House of Lords on the 25th February.

The Government opposed the amendment, arguing that by allowing migrant domestic workers to change employer, workers may not go forward to the police and their employers may escape prosecution.

This makes no sense and is morally abhorrent. It also won’t work.

The Modern Slavery Bill is proposing to keep workers we know to be vulnerable to extreme abuses including trafficking and slavery tied to their employers on a visa which has been found to facilitate their abuse in order that these same workers will then before forced to go to the authorities if they are to get any form of protection. In the almost three years during which migrant domestic workers have been tied to their employers, fewer workers known to Kalayaan have gone to the authorities, not more, because they are too scared. They have been made undocumented and criminalised by the act of escaping criminal abuse committed against them. The Government’s amendment instead proposes that those migrant domestic workers who are Conclusively recognised as trafficked through the Government’s identification system may get a six month visa to work as a domestic worker. This will not change the current situation, whereby migrant domestic workers feel unsafe to challenge or to leave abuse, as it offers no protection to any workers until they have gone to the authorities. The worker, terrified, and threatened, in escaping abuse is expected to take a leap of faith. These workers are not coming forward now and we cannot see what the Government’s amendment offers which would change this.

Of the 214 workers who Kalayaan internally identified as trafficked since April 2012 only 63 have consented to a referral into the NRM. In the same time period only 25 workers consented to us supporting them to go to the police. There remains no upheld conviction for trafficking an adult to the UK for domestic servitude. The only conviction for slavery took place prior to migrant domestic workers being tied to their employers. While domestic workers remain insecure and criminalised they are not in a position to think about justice.


Write to your MP asking them to keep protections for migrant domestic workers in the Modern Slavery Bill

Please write to your MP asking them to support the continued inclusion of protections for migrant domestic workers in the Modern Slavery Bill.

Wednesday 25th February was a historic win for migrant domestic workers in the UK when Peers in the House of Lords voted to include important protections against slavery for migrant domestic workers in the Modern Slavery Bill. It is important that these protections remain in the Bill and are not removed if there is a vote on this matter in the House of Commons.

There is not much time. If the Government proposes any amendment to take out these protections this would be likely to be debated during the week of the 9th March.

If you don’t know who your MP is, you can find out here

Feel welcome to use the template letter below. You letter will of course be more powerful if you also use some of your own words. Please make sure you include your full address in the letter so your MP knows that you are one of their constituents:

NAME MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear NAME MP

I am writing to ask if you, my MP, will support the continued inclusion of an important clause to protect migrant domestic workers from slavery in the Modern Slavery Bill.

On the 25th February Peers in the House of Lords voted to include an important amendment, which (i) allows migrant domestic workers in the UK to change employer, (ii) if in employment as a domestic workers to apply to renew their visa, and (iii) to grant those found to have been a victim of slavery a temporary three month visa to give them a chance to find a decent job and begin to rebuild their lives.

Until the Peers voted to include these important protections the Bill did nothing to address the fact that since April 2012 migrant domestic workers have been tied by the immigration rules to the named employer with who they entered the UK on a 6 month, non renewable visa. This means that those who are mistreated or abused have to either endure this treatment, or escape and in doing so breach the terms of their visa.

Reports by migrant domestic workers who approach Kalayaan, a small charity in London, for support show that, as well as stripping workers of options once they escape, the treatment of workers has also worsened with the removal of the basic right of being able to leave their job without breaking the law. Workers on the tied visa are more likely to have been physically abused, never allowed out of their employers’ house, to sleep in the lounge or kitchen and to work more than 16 hours a day.

Between April 2012 and 2014 Kalayaan staff internally assessed more than double (69%) of those who were tied by their visa to their employer as trafficked in contrast with 26% of those who had not been tied.

Migrant domestic workers have long been recognised as particularly vulnerable to abuse because of their dependence on one employer for their work, their visa, most information about the UK and their accommodation. The tied visa tipped this inbalance in power further still, with most workers having their employer’s name written on their visa and being unable to resign from their job lawfully, no matter what their employer did to them.

The Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill found that ‘In the case of the domestic worker’ visa, policy changes have unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery’. The Committee called on the Government to take immediate action. The Peers have now ensured that the necessary protections to reverse these policy changes are in the Bill and that if the Bill passes as is domestic workers will be able to escape abuse without fearing that they are breaking the law. I very much hope that as my MP you will support the continued inclusion of the amendment in the Bill if there is a vote on the matter.

Yours sincerely,

YOUR NAME


Lords vote to protect migrant domestic workers

An important amendment to include vital protections for migrant domestic workers has been voted into the Modern Slavery Bill by the House of Lords on the 25th February 2015. It allows domestic workers to change employer, meaning they can escape abusive employment without fear of breaching the immigration rules.

The vote was won by 183 to 176. We are hopeful that the Government will recognise the importance of these protections and they will go on to become law.

The Amendment, tabled by Lord Hylton, Baroness Royall of Blasidon, The Lord Bishop of Carlisle and Baroness Hanham is as follows.

Insert the following new Clause—

“Protection from slavery for overseas domestic workers

All overseas domestic workers in the United Kingdom, including those
working for staff of diplomatic missions, shall be entitled to—

(a) change their employer (but not work sector) while in the United
Kingdom;

(b) renew their domestic worker or diplomatic domestic worker visa,
each such renewal being for a period not exceeding twelve months,
as long as they remain in employment and are able to support
themselves without recourse to public funds;

(c) a three month temporary visa permitting them to live in the United
Kingdom for the purposes of seeking alternative employment as an
overseas domestic worker where there is evidence that the worker
has been a victim of modern slavery.”


Immunity upheld

Court of Appeal judgement rules that diplomatic immunity is upheld, leaving diplomatic migrant domestic workers employed by diplomats without a remedy
5 February 2015
Kalayaan intervened in a case in the Court of Appeal concerning a migrant domestic worker found to be trafficked by a diplomat and her claim for compensation.
The case Reyes & Anor v Al Malki is a claim against a Saudi Arabian diplomat and his wife. The Claimants, who were employed successively in the diplomat’s household and who have both been found by the UK Competent Authority to have been trafficked for domestic servitude, are represented by the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU) who instructed Paul Luckhurst of Blackstone Chambers.
Kalayaan, a charity which gives support and advice to migrant domestic workers in the UK instructed Zubier Yazdani & Silvia Nicolaou Garcia of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors and Tom Hickman of Blackstone Chambers for their intervention. The Judgement, handed down on the 5th February 2015, has upheld the diplomats’ immunity, denying the claimants recourse to pursue claims through the employment tribunals. The claimants are appealing.
The case was heard together with Janah v Libya, Benkharbouche v Sudan in which the claimants, also domestic workers, challenged State immunity, seeking a declaration of incompatibility between the State Immunity Act 1968 and the claimants EU law rights. In a potentially groundbreaking judgement this decision of incompatibility was granted.
Zuber Yazdani said ‘Despite the UK recognising that the Appellants were subjected to treatment amounting to trafficking the Court has denied them a remedy preferring to uphold the immunity of a diplomat. Trafficking is inherently a commercial activity and has nothing to do with the functions of a diplomat. It would seem outrageous to anyone that the law should defend such abhorrent conduct. This is a disappointing decision from the Court which will no doubt be appealed.’
Kate Roberts, Community Advocate at Kalayaan said that ‘Kalayaan continues to advocate for justice for all migrant domestic workers, including those employed and trafficked by diplomats. The Reyes judgement and the fact that these individuals have not been able to pursue justice through the courts due to their employer’s claim to immunity further demonstrates the need for the UK to have domestic policies which protect all migrant domestic workers. Currently all migrant domestic workers are tied to their employers in law. This has been found by both the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill and the Joint Committee on Human Rights to facilitate their exploitation including trafficking. The UK needs to have legislation in place which allows domestic workers to change employers. For those employed in diplomatic households there needs to be enforceable contracts in place directly with embassies.’


Amendment tabled to ensure migrant domestic workers are protected by Modern Slavery Bill

Lord Hylton has tabled an important amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill which if passed at Report Stage would do a huge amount to protect migrant domestic workers against abuse and would close the gap in protections currently in the Bill. The amendment has received support from across the house with Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Labour), The Lord Bishop of Carlisle and Baroness Hanham (Conservative) having added their names as signatories to the Bill.

After Clause 51
LORD HYLTON
BARONESS ROYALL OF BLAISDON
THE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE
BARONESS HANHAM

Insert the following new Clause—

“Protection from slavery for overseas domestic workers

All overseas domestic workers in the United Kingdom, including those
working for staff of diplomatic missions, shall be entitled to—

(a) change their employer (but not work sector) while in the United
Kingdom;

(b) renew their domestic worker or diplomatic domestic worker visa,
each such renewal being for a period not exceeding twelve months,
as long as they remain in employment and are able to support
themselves without recourse to public funds;

(c) a three month temporary visa permitting them to live in the United
Kingdom for the purposes of seeking alternative employment as an
overseas domestic worker where there is evidence that the worker
has been a victim of modern slavery.”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2014-2015/0069/amend/am069-f.htm


Do you want to end the tying of domestic workers to their employers?

ITV’s Exposure programme ‘Britain’s Secret Slaves’ shown on the 19th January 2015 highlights the real impacts of tying migrant domestic workers to their employers.

Please consider writing to your MP and asking them where they stand on this issue. Kalayaan would be grateful to see copies of any replies you receive.

If you don’t know who your MP is you can find out here

You are welcome to adapt and use the template letter below.

XXXXXXX MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear XXXXXX MP,

Britain’s Secret Slaves: Migrant domestic workers
You may have seen ITV’s recent Exposure programme ‘Britain’s Secret Slaves’ which examined the situation of migrant domestic workers in the UK. The programme found that the result of changes to the visa system introduced in April 2012 is that migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to shocking exploitation and are criminalised when they escape.
The current system requires domestic workers to enter on a six month tied visa which prohibits them leaving their employer, no matter how they are treated. It replaces a system which had been recognised both nationally and internationally as providing vital protection to migrant domestic workers.
Since domestic workers have been tied to employers reported exploitation to the NGO Kalayaan has increased including;
• workers having no time off (79%),
• having their passports taken from them (78%),
• Not allowed out of the house unaccompanied (71%), and
• being paid little or nothing (60% paid less than £50/ week).

Physical, psychological and sexual abuse is also reported. This treatment is illegal in the UK yet as the workers cannot leave and go to the authorities – because to do so will immediately make them illegal immigrants – the employers are getting away with it.
The original migrant domestic worker visa worked well. Domestic workers were recognised as workers under UK law and could leave an employer. They had no recourse to public funds and work was limited to one full time job as a domestic worker in a private household. This meant there was no reason to leave unless working conditions were poor.
The Modern Slavery Bill as it stands currently provides no meaningful protections for migrant domestic workers. The Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill recently described the 2012 tied visa as unintentionally strengthening the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery and stated that ‘the moral case for revisiting this issue is urgent and overwhelming. Protecting these victims does not require primary legislation and we call on the Government to take immediate action.’ Unbelievably the Government have rejected this recommendation.
I would like to know where you, my MP, stand on this issue. Please would you reassure me that you oppose the current system and support the Joint Committee’s recommendation to reverse the tied visa and to reintroduce the rights of migrant domestic workers in the UK?
Yours sincerely,
xxxxx


Exposure: Britain’s Secret Slaves.

ITV
Factual

You can watch Britain’s Secret Slaves again here

TX: 10.35pm on Monday January 19, 2015
This is a Hardcash production for ITV

“It was like a hell. She treat me as a slave. Not like a human being, I was treated like an animal. It was hard. But I stayed for my son.” – Elizabeth, domestic worker

Exposure delves into the world of modern slavery – and finds it alive and well in some of London’s most exclusive streets.

Featuring testimony from women who are forced to work up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week for as little as 50 pence an hour, this programme provides a close insight into the conditions of domestic workers brought into the country by their wealthy foreign employers.

Reporter Julie Etchingham finds that many of the women report physical and psychological abuse, despite the fact they are meant to be protected by British law while working here.

Because of recent changes in visa laws, the women have no legal status if they leave the families who employ them. The programme discovers how those who escape from abusive employers are exploited by criminals who draw them into a murky underworld of fake passports, false visas, and illegal employment.

One case study the team found during its 12-month investigation, ‘Ira’, says she was brought to the UK under the new system, to care for her employers’ child at a London hospital. Back in Saudi Arabia she worked up to 20 hours a day and had to ask permission to brush her teeth and go to the toilet. In the UK she explains this got worse.

She says: “They treat me as like a prisoner. They never ever give me even a single pound to buy my own food, even my personal things. Especially one time I have monthly period here I [had to] use only the nappy of a boy.”

The UK has legal obligations to protect domestic workers from abuse. The Government says it does this by ensuring women are given information by British officials about their rights in the UK. Another woman, ‘Davina’, says she was given no information and once in the UK lived in fear of her employer.

She says: “He says, ‘I can kill you.’ I was scared maybe he will do something, he will really kill me. I cannot sleep thinking about maybe one day I will die here.”

The programme discovers it is not just women working for private households who are suffering abuse. ‘Sarah’ says she was locked inside her employer’s apartment, forced to work 18 hours a day for a diplomat who withheld her wages.

She says: “I’m scared because he’s a diplomat, that’s what I’m scared of. He can do whatever he want to do, as he has immunity under the law. It’s really a slavery, the thing that my employer did to me.”

In April 2012, in an effort to cut immigration numbers, the Government changed the visa system so women were tied to the employers who brought them in. If they run away, they now find themselves at risk of deportation – and critics have compared this process to the ‘kafala’ system used by many Middle Eastern and Gulf countries, which essentially makes domestic workers the property of their employers.

Kate Roberts, a Community Advocate at Kalayaan, a charity that supports overseas domestic workers, says: “To put vulnerable women in a position where they are enslaved in the UK is completely disproportionate to the Government’s aims of controlling immigration. It’s completely contradictory to have removed a visa system which was shown to work well and replace it with one that, that has been condemned by human rights groups as a model tying these workers to their employers.”

One woman, too terrified to go on camera, recorded a secret diary for the programme. It reveals that she was brought here two years ago by a wealthy family from the United Arab Emirates who stopped paying her, and she fled with only the clothes she was wearing. She discovered she had no legal right to change employers and had to go on to the black market to find a job illegally.

She writes: “I am tired but I want job. I want money for my family. Only me work. I have three brother. Have three sisters. Small sister married and husband not work. She is always sick also. Another big sister. Her husband die. I am so tired but I can’t do anything. Because everybody ask for papers.”

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has said that abolishing modern slavery in Britain is a personal priority. Marissa Begonia, who helps runaways as chair of the Justice 4 Domestic Workers group, says the system needs to change urgently.

She says: “What kind of system do we have that the victims are the ones being criminalised? And licensing the perpetrators to abuse more, to exploit more workers. Where is the justice there?”

Press contact: Tom Hodson 020 7157 3015 or tom.hodson@itv.com
Picture contact: Peter Gray 020 7157 3046 or peter.gray@itv.com


Strong support from Peers to end slavery of domestic workers

On Wednesday 10th December the Modern Slavery Bill reached Committee Stage in the House of Lords. Amendment 94, which would have done much to protect Overseas Domestic Workers from slavery but allowing them to change employer and apply to renew their visa if in full time employment as a domestic worker in a private household, was hotly debated. It is clear that many Peers keenly feel the injustice of the current system which bonds migrant domestic workers to their employers.

Disappointingly the Government continue to attempt to defend the current arrangement; in spite of all the evidence to date showing that the abuse of migrant domestic workers is being facilitated by the tied ODW visa. There is likely to be a vote on this matter at Report stage in February and Kalayaan remains positive that Peers will demand that the current tied visa is reversed.