Government suggestions to get rid of the overseas domestic worker visa will lead to an increase in abuse, an anti-slavery activist told the Immigration Minister Damian Green at a lunchtime award ceremony on Monday.
Marissa Begonia, from Kalayaan – Justice for Domestic Workers, made her comments as she got the Anti-Slavery International award on behalf of her organisation at the Human Trafficking Foundation Media Awards at the House of Lords. The awards are part of a series of events taking place across the country to celebrate Anti-Slavery Day on October 18.
Kalayaan is made up exclusively of migrant domestic workers from across the world and offers assistance to domestic workers who have undergone abuse, mistreatment and even slavery.
The government is currently taking into account removing the overseas domestic worker visa, which would remove the right of domestic workers to change employer.
Only domestic workers working for diplomats do not currently have the right to change employer. Recent research by the charity Kalayaan found that migrant domestic workers working for diplomats are 20 times more likely to find themselves in slavery than domestic workers protected by the right to change employer.
Marissa Begonia, originally from the Philippines told the Immigration Minister that with the visa, they were officially recognised as workers and their contribution to the economy, to families and to society was acknowledged.
Begonia added,” But more crucially for us, we are given the right to change employers if they don’t pay us, force us to work or abuse us. I need to ask why the government is considering removing a visa that been proven to significantly reduce the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers?”
Audrey Guichon, Domestic Worker Programme Co-ordinator at Anti-Slavery International, said that the government knew that prior to the introduction of the overseas domestic worker visa there were appalling levels of abuse experienced by migrant domestic workers in the UK. Guichon asserted that reductions in abuse were particularly due to the introduction of the visa and the protection it offered, especially the right to change employers.