Indian domestic workers face serious abuse in the UK: Human Rights Watch

Migrant domestic workers, including Indians, who travel to the UK with their employers, face serious abuses and exploitation by their employers, says a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on March 31.

The HRW released a 58-page report titled “Hidden away: migrant domestic abuses in the UK” which documents: Confiscation of passports; Forced labour; Verbal, physical and psychological abuse; Confinement and restricted contact with others; Excessive working hours with no rest; low or no salary.

The report said, “Working and often living in other people’s homes, migrant domestic workers are among the most vulnerable workers, at risk of abuse and exploitation that often happens behind closed doors, making it difficult for them to seek help, and for people on the outside to see what is happening”.

Anita L, an Indian domestic worker told HRW that her employers didn’t pay her for three years, including the months she spent working for them in the UK, where she arrived under the old visa system. She worked from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. with no breaks and no day offs. She was not allowed to go out alone.

“They said they would transfer money to my account but they didn’t. I called home in India once per month, I wasn’t allowed a mobile,” she said.

Indian domestic workers face serious abuse in the UK

Indian domestic workers face serious abuse in the UK

In April 2012, under Theresa May’s drive to control immigration, the Home Office introduced a new ‘tied’ visa rule. This rule disallowed a migrant domestic worker to change employers. Thus the workers are trapped and if they flee the abusive workplace, they become illegal immigrants without passports or other documents, as the employers keep all their documents with themselves.

“It’s scandalous that in modern Britain migrant domestic workers are subject to such appalling abuses. But instead of protecting these workers, the system makes it harder for them to escape,” said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at HRW.

“Workers who are mistreated now face a horrendous choice: either endure the terrible abuse, or escape and become undocumented migrant, where off-course they are much more vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation,” she added.

She said, “It’s abhorrent that anyone should be tied into abuse in this way.”

“The UK government is failing in its duty to protect migrant domestic workers, who all too often are victims of horrific hidden abuse. If it’s serious about ending what it calls modern day slavery, the government should recognize just how vulnerable these workers are and give them the protection they deserve,” Leghtas said.