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