Migrants workers protest against proposed changes in UK Visa

Changes propose removing possibility of extension
5th September 2011: Considering the changes being proposed by UKBA, migrant domestic workers in large numbers demonstrated outside Parliament.
Existing rules permit them to change jobs and move to a different household without losing their immigrant status.

The Justice 4 Domestic Workers campaign says plans to end the right, will leave staff open to ill-treatment or exploitation.

 Justice 4 Domestic Workers, which represents 500 members from countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Morocco and Nigeria, also has the support of the union Unite and the charity Kalayaan.

The Home Office insists no changes will be made to the present system until a discussion on the topic has ended.

The intended change is part of the government’s pledge to cut net migration to tens of thousands by 2015.

In its consultation document, the UK Border agency says: "While we are restricting skilled work, it would arguably be counter-intuitive to retain a route into the UK labour market for low skilled domestic workers via the private household route."

Migrant workers entering the UK on Overseas Domestic Worker visas include chauffeurs, gardeners, cooks and nannies.

Kalayaan, offering domestic staff advice and support, said that the existing visa provided a vitally important safeguard for some of the most susceptible and detached workers.

The changes under consideration include ending the visa for overseas domestic workers. It also suggests keeping the visa but limiting it to six months or 12 months, if accompanying a Tier 1 or 2 migrant. The changes also propose removing possibility of extension, removing right to change employer and removing right to sponsor dependents or removing right of dependents to work in UK. The recommendations also suggest eliminating right to settlement and strengthening pre-entry requirements to minimise the possibility of abuse or exploitation.

The Community advocate at Kalayaan, Jenny Moss, said that removing the fundamental protections associated with the domestic worker visa would certainly lead to an increase in abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.

She added that the plans would not considerably add to the government’s objective of lowering net migration.

Marissa Begonia, from Justice 4 Domestic Workers, told the BBC: “The right to change employer was very important for us. … it saves lives, especially for those domestic workers who are being sexually abused, who have been beaten, and who have been asked to work for 24 hours…. "That is not work, that is slavery."

A Home Office spokesman told BBC that this government was determined to get immigration down to sustainable levels.

The spokesman asserted "We are reviewing all work routes which can lead to settlement and it is right that we include the overseas domestic worker route as part of this.”


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