Domestic Workers as Victims of Human Trafficking and/or Slavery
The UK is a signatory to several international conventions on human rights and the prevention of modern slavery and human trafficking. If you have come to the UK on a Domestic Worker in a Private Household visa, you have the right to protection if you are the victim of slavery or human trafficking.
Our experienced immigration solicitors can provide you with expert advice as to your legal rights and help you access to support so you can find safe accommodation. To find out how we can help you, please contact us immediately.
What is Modern Slavery?
Many people believe slavery ended at the end of the American Civil War. However, this is not the case. Slavery has been a part of almost every society throughout history and is still a feature in the modern age. In July 2020, a spike in Covid-19 cases in the city of Leicester was linked to the city’s garment factories, where many are paid below minimum wage in cramped conditions. An investigation by the Sunday Times found that workers in Leicester making clothes for Nasty Gal, owned by Boohoo, were paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
The definition of slavery is where one human being is owned by another, and that other person controls where the enslaved person lives and works. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 states:
(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) The person holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is held in slavery or servitude, or
(b) The person requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour, and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is being required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
How Do People End up Being Trapped in Slavery?
Almost a quarter (71%) of modern slaves are women. They often reply to advertisements for jobs as a domestic servant in the hope of securing a better life and more money. Frequently, they have children to care for, and the only way they can earn a decent income is to work abroad.
Unfortunately, the UK’s hostile immigration environment means people trafficked from abroad are often treated as immigration offenders. That is why it is essential to contact us for help if you are a victim of modern slavery. We can advise you on how to escape your situation and ensure you can remain in the country.
What is Human Trafficking?
The United Nations states human trafficking comprises of three elements:
“The Act (What is done)
Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
The Means (How it is done)
Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim
The Purpose (Why it is done)
For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.”
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, of which the United Kingdom is a signatory, states under Article 6:
Assistance to and protection of victims of trafficking in persons
1. In appropriate cases and to the extent possible under its domestic law, each State Party shall protect the privacy and identity of victims of trafficking in persons, including, inter alia, by making legal proceedings relating to such trafficking confidential.
2. Each State Party shall ensure that its domestic legal or administrative system contains measures that provide to victims of trafficking in persons, in appropriate cases:
(a) Information on the relevant court and administrative proceedings;
(b) Assistance to enable their views and concerns to be presented and considered at appropriate stages of criminal proceedings against offenders, in a manner not prejudicial to the rights of the defence.
3. Each State Party shall consider implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of trafficking in persons, including, in appropriate cases, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, other relevant organizations and other elements of civil society, and, in particular, the provision of:
(a) Appropriate housing;
(b) Counselling and information, in particular as regards their legal rights, in a language that the victims of trafficking in persons can understand;
(c) Medical, psychological and material assistance; and
(d) Employment, educational, and training opportunities.
4. Each State Party shall take into account, in applying the provisions of this article, the age, gender, and special needs of victims of trafficking in persons, in particular the special needs of children, including appropriate housing, education, and care.
5. Each State Party shall endeavour to provide for the physical safety of victims of trafficking in persons while they are within its territory.
6. Each State Party shall ensure that its domestic legal system contains measures that offer victims of trafficking in persons the possibility of obtaining compensation for damage suffered.
Why Are Those on a Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa Vulnerable to Human Trafficking and Slavery?
Many women who come to the UK on a Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa are domestic workers in the Gulf States - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar. These countries operate a sponsorship system known as ‘kafala’. Kafala links a migrant’s legal right to live and work in the country to their employment contract. Trying to escape an abusive employer could result in being sent to prison.
Women who come to the UK as a domestic servant with their employer should be paid the UK Minimum Wage and enjoy the same rights as all UK workers. However, many are paid nothing or almost nothing, made to sleep on the floor or in other terrible conditions, and/or beaten and abused.
What can I Do if I am on a Domestic Worker in a Private Household visa and am being mistreated?
If you are in the UK on the Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa and are a victim of human trafficking or slavery, you can apply to stay in the UK for two years if you have a letter from UK Visas and Immigration confirming you are a victim of slavery or human trafficking and you can support yourself financially in the UK.
You must apply within 28 days of getting confirmation you are a victim of slavery or human trafficking. You will be able to work as a domestic servant during the two years and do not have to have a job offer before making an application. To find out how you can stay in the UK for two years if you are a victim of slavery or human trafficking and on a Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa, contact our team of experienced immigration lawyers.
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