Justice 4 Domestic Workers this week led a protest outside parliament, which saw hundreds of migrant domestic workers demonstrating against proposed changes to their visa conditions.
The proposed changes will affect domestic workers coming into the UK from countries like Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria and the Philippines and include chauffeurs, gardeners, cooks and au pairs.
Current rules allow these workers to change jobs and move to different households once in the UK, without losing their immigration status. This is especially important for those who move over with their employers and are subject to abuse and/or exploitation. They are able to remove themselves from dangerous or exploitative situations and find more suitable work that allows them to build a life in the UK. Currently, they are also able to apply for settlement after 5 years in the UK and may bring dependants with them.
Drastic Changes Proposed
But the government has vowed to cut migration substantially by 2015 and say these proposed changes are simply part of that plan. They are considering scrapping the visa completely, encouraging people to hire domestic help from within the UK or at least from within the EU.
Should the visa not be scrapped, the government is considering the following changes:
- Strengthening pre-entry requirements
- Restricting entry to six or 12 months (if accompanying a Tier 1 or 2 migrant)
- Removing the possibility of extension entirely
- Removing the right to change employer while on the visa
- Removing right to sponsor dependents
- Removing the right to settlement
Justice 4 Domestic Workers says that the proposed plans will leave domestic workers open to abuse and exploitation and that the current visa provided a safeguard for some of the most vulnerable and isolated domestic workers. Their argument is that these workers could come to the UK with their employers expecting a better life, only to be treated like slaves. In such situations their only choices would be to stay and be a slave or go back to a life of poverty in their home country.
What do you think?