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Migrant domestic workers rally to prevent a return to domestic slavery in the UK

Migrant domestic workers rally to prevent a return to domestic slavery in the UK

No return to slavery!

WHEN: 11am, Sunday, 4 September 2011

WHERE: Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1

Hundreds of migrant domestic workers will be gathering in Old Palace Yard, Westminster on Sunday, 4 September to demonstrate against the governments proposed changes to the domestic workers visa.

The UK government has proposed to change the domestic workers visa and remove some of the most fundamental rights of migrant domestic workers which could leave them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.

At present migrant domestic workers have some protections. They are allowed to change their employer without losing their immigration status, meaning if they are mistreated, they can leave and find new non-exploitative work to support their families. They can seek justice through the police or the employment courts without fearing they will be removed from the UK.

If these rights are removed, unscrupulous employers will know they can abuse and exploit with impunity.

Justice 4 Domestic Workers, the domestic worker led group organising the rally, are supported by Kalayaan and Unite the union in demanding that the UK government does not return slavery to the UK and that

.     The domestic worker visa rights are retained, including the right to

change employer and recognition as a worker covered by employment legislation

.     Those who come to the UK with diplomats have these same rights

.     The UK government ratify and implement the International Labour

Convention on domestic workers

Marissa Begonia, Chair of Justice 4 Domestic Workers, said:

"Where are we heading if the minimal protection we have is about to be removed, back to the century of slavery? The domestic worker visa has been our escape route from abusive employers and enabled us rebuild our lives from this exploitative situation. The UK government acknowledged the need to protect migrant domestic workers in 1998 and implemented the domestic workers visa. Why take back what is proven as the best protection of some of the most vulnerable workers?

"We urge the government to uphold the honour and dignity of the United Kingdom and improve the current working and living conditions of domestic workers. The more vulnerable the worker is, the more protection they need."

Jenny Moss, Community Advocate at Kalayaan, said:

"Removing the vital protections associated with the domestic worker visa will undoubtedly lead to an increase in abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. It is shameful that the UK government intends to return us to slavery for the sake of knocking 1,000 people from their net migration total.

"Government proposals should be urgently rethought and they ought to work with migrant domestic workers and Kalayaan to improve protections for this very vulnerable group rather than remove them."

Diana Holland, Unite Assistant General Secretary, said:

"The domestic worker visa was introduced with all-Party support to right a very serious wrong. It is horrifying to contemplate a return to the slavery and bonded labour before the visa. This government cannot brush the issue of slavery under the carpet.

"The government must stop the threat to make the most vulnerable even more vulnerable. They only way to ensure migrant domestic workers are treated with dignity and respect is by keeping the domestic worker visa as it is."


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