Oxfam has warned that government’s plans to change visa rules for migrant domestic workers could put thousands at risk of severe exploitation.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced that from 6th April 2012, private servants working for diplomats will continue to be able to come to the UK under Tier 5 (Temporary worker – International agreement), if sponsored by the diplomatic mission. Such workers will have no right to change employer.
“Backtracking on this policy will put thousands of predominantly female workers, who come to the UK to work as live in domestic help, at risk of exploitation,” Oxfam’s Director of UK Poverty, Chris Johnes, said. “This new ruling means that workers will lose the right to leave an abusive employer for another household and will have no way of challenging exploitation without losing their immigration status.”
Johnes also criticized the rule allowing domestic workers to only remain in the UK for six months. “By limiting their entry to six months, there is a significant risk that employers may avoid using the Visa and traffic workers so that they can keep them for more than six months, therefore reducing the control the Government has over the immigration system,” Johnes said.
Oxfam was one of a number of organisations that campaigned against the abolition of the visa in 2008. The majority of migrant domestic workers are women from developing countries. The provision to change employers was introduced with the specific aim of protecting this vulnerable, predominantly female, workforce after hundreds of reports of horrific abuse.
Johnes said. “Before the Domestic Worker Visa was brought in many women were living in dreadful conditions, not being allowed out of the house, sleeping on the floor, being denied meals or time off and even physically and mentally abused.”