There are approximately 18,000 Overseas Domestic Worker Visa (odwv) issued every year according to the Home Office’s data. UKVI estimates that 32% of those visa holders remain in the UK for more than 42 days. They accompanied their employers who are visiting the UK with a valid visa for 6 Months either in private household or diplomat household. Overseas Domestic Workers could be nannies, cleaners, cooks, drivers and other household chores.
Before 2012 Overseas Domestic Workers (ODW) had the ability to change employer, the right to renew visa, the right to settlement after 5 Years of active work and the right to apply for British citizenship after a year of settlement. These rights were all scrapped in 2012 by then Coalition Government tying ODW to one employer, a tied visa system of slavery. The moment Domestic Workers resist and escape abuse at work, they become undocumented and they are unable to claim their rights including unpaid wages. This came a year after the UK Government abstained from ratifying the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on protection for domestic workers, claiming there was already sufficient protection in place, labour protections which they already removed. To date there are already 25 countries that have ratified the ILOC189 But for domestic workers in the UK it’s a long cry for justice.
The Voice of Domestic Workers is an outstanding grass roots organisation of migrant domestic workers who are organising and speaking out against abuses and exploitation they experience as a result of hostile environment polices. Here are their stories.
‘’When I escaped from my abusive employer who brought me here in the UK. I managed to find job the following day but I was caught by the new system of 6 Months visa non-renewable so this employer even if she would like to continue employing me, she had to let me go. From this employer I have been to three different abusive employers, it was hard to be discriminated because to these employers I am no one with no documents and no identity, that they could anything they want to do, that I don’t deserved decent pay, that I should work round the clock. I’m tired of this repetitive abuse but what can I do?’’, Precious
‘’The immigration officers knocked on our door, I quickly hide behind the blind of the window. My housemate opened the door, they were the immigration officers! They interrogated my housemate then arrested her. Each time I heard someone knocked at the door, my whole body would tremble. I escaped from my abusive employer and tried to live a normal life. The sight of immigration officers terrified me. But why is it escaping from abusive employment is a crime?’ Mary
‘’My employer would cut my salary and even beat me for every little mistake I made. There was even an incident where my employer poured hot cooking oil on me. I worked for 24 hours each day 7 days per week, no rest, no day off. I could only eat if there was left over if none then I had nothing to eat. My body was so weak, I thought of my 3 children back. May I ask everyone, am I not human being to be treated this way?’ Janette
‘’I suffered stroke while at work. My employer brought me to hospital but claimed she found me on the road and that she didn’t know me and left. I survived this stroke but with the kind of disease attached to my overseas domestic worker tied slave visa I have now, is there a cure? ‘’ Lyn Lyn
‘‘My employers locked me in the hotel room with no food to eat, the male would sexually harassed me and the female would hit me each time she was frustrated. I couldn’t take my hunger anymore, I called the reception to unlock the room and so I fled. Unfortunately, I thought I found a good family already but the son of this family repeatedly raped me, I thought in this country there is human rights, where are they?’’ Jasim
‘’My employer brought me here in 2014 but I didn’t know which airport we landed, they kept my passport. In a place I didn’t even know where, I was forced to work 24 hours, 7 days a week. I was cage with little food to eat. I managed to escape but to what amount of exploitation I have had to suffered to access protection?’’ Amara
Please join the Voice of Domestic Workers Celebration on 16th June at 2 pm in Tavistock Square Park to recognise migrant workers and hear form great line-up of speakers :
1. Jennette Arnold, Chair, London Assembly
2. His Excellency Antonio Lagdameo, Ambassador Philippines Embassy
3. Dave Turnbull, Regional Officer, Unite the Union
4. Mimi Jalmasco, The Voice of Domestic Workers
5. Sarbjit Johal, Freedom Without Fear Platform
6. Rosa Crawford, Policy Officer, Trades Union Congress (TUC)
For more details about the event on the 16th June please visit the event registration page here