Anti-Slavery award winner slams proposals to scrap visa

17 October 2011

Government proposals to scrap the overseas domestic worker visa will lead to an increase in abuse, an anti-slavery activist has told the Immigration Minister Damian Green at a lunchtime award ceremony today (Monday 17 October).

Marissa Begonia, from Justice for Domestic Workers, made her comments as she received the Anti-Slavery International award on behalf of her organisation at the Human Trafficking Foundation Media Awards at the House of Lords. The awards are part of a series of events taking place across the country to celebrate Anti-Slavery Day tomorrow (Tuesday 18 October).

Justice for Domestic Workers is made up solely of migrant domestic workers from across the world and offers support to domestic workers who have suffered abuse, exploitation and even slavery.

The government is currently considering removing the overseas domestic worker visa, which would remove the right of domestic workers to change employer. Only domestic workers working for diplomats do not currently have the right to change employer. Recent research by the charity Kalayaan finds that migrant domestic workers working for diplomats are 20 times more likely to find themselves in slavery than domestic workers protected by the right to change employer.

Marissa Begonia, originally from the Philippines told the Immigration Minister: “With the visa, we are officially recognised as workers and our contribution to the economy, to families and to society is acknowledged. But more crucially for us, we are given the right to change employers if they don’t pay us, force us to work or abuse us. I need to ask why the government is considering removing a visa that been proven to significantly reduce the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers?”.

Audrey Guichon, Domestic Worker Programme Co-ordinator at Anti-Slavery International, said: “The Government knows that prior to the introduction of the overseas domestic worker visa there were appalling levels of abuse experienced by migrant domestic workers in the UK. Reductions in abuse were specifically due to the introduction of the visa and the protection it offered, especially the right to change employers.”

For further press information, contact: Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International Press Officer on 020 7501 8934.