Balancing migration with prevention and detection of trafficking

This past week, a British woman was jailed for six months and ordered to pay £3,000 compensation to a 21-year old Tanzanian woman who she kept as a slave in her home. Read the whole story here.

The young lady was not brought to the UK illegally and in fact she entered the country legally on a work visa but that didn’t save her from being forced to work as a slave once she arrived.  This news story brings attention to the difficult balance between protecting and preventing trafficking and migration policies.

The existing Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) visa provides the most important protection for some of the most vulnerable and isolated workers in the UK. The visa works well; workers can only enter on, or renew their visa, if they are in employment. They are recognised as workers in the UK with the right to change employer which allows them to escape abuse if they encounter it in their work situation.

The UK government is proposing to remove these protections in order to reduce figures for net migration. If these changes occur, conditions for migrant domestic workers in the UK will worsen dramatically resulting in increasing numbers of domestic workers subjected to forced labour or other exploitation including trafficking for domestic servitude.

The current system for ODW contains protections which help prevent trafficking, in contrast victim support measures only works to identify workers once they have already been trafficked. Overseas domestic workers who have become undocumented upon escaping abuse are far less likely to come forward for identification, protections available even once a worker has been identified are limited and costly. In contrast the right to change employer costs the state nothing.

If you want to find out more about this issue and what you can do about it, visit the website of Kalayaan who support migrant domestic workers and campaign on these issues – http://www.kalayaan.org.uk/

And if you want to find out more about communicating with your MP or local government representative on issues around human trafficking (in the UK or around the world) read our sheet

One thought on “Balancing migration with prevention and detection of trafficking

  1. Evidence collected over the past decade by Kalayaan a charity which works with migrant domestic workers in the UK shows that this group of workers are regularly subjected to abuse exploitation and forced labour in the UK.Of the 340 migrant domestic workers registered with Kalayaan in the period April 2006 – March 2007 just under a quarter reported instances of physical abuse such as being beaten or slapped things thrown at them spitting in their face and pulling their hair and nine per cent reported sexual abuse. Nearly two thirds of the domestic workers said they were not allowed out of the house without their employers permission and nearly one third had their passports taken from them and kept by their employer. Two thirds of the domestic workers reported working 16 or more hours per day seven days a week with no meal breaks.

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