Every year around 17,000 visas are granted to people from countries outside the European Union to come to Britain as domestic workers. The majority are women, carrying out jobs such as caring for children or other family members, cooking and cleaning.
As they work in private homes and often do not speak much English, these workers are often extremely isolated and vulnerable – and face shocking levels of abuse.
Many do not have a bed, or aren’t allowed regular meals. Employers sometimes keep the workers’ passports. Abuse is widespread.
Kalayaan is a campaigning charity that fights for domestic workers’ rights. It highlights the poor working conditions of domestic workers.
The charity’s research found that 26 percent of domestic workers had suffered physical abuse and 72 percent psychological abuse.
At least 10 percent had suffered sexual abuse, although this is likely to be higher as it is routinely under‑reported. Some 70 percent had no meal breaks and no time off, while 62 percent were not allowed out of the house.
Divia is a migrant domestic worker from India who came to Britain in 2000. Her employer made her sleep on a stone floor in a storeroom. She was given so little food that her eyesight began to fail. She was continually shouted at and insulted.
Luisa came to Britain from the Philippines. Her employer beat her and shouted at her. She had recurrent nightmares as a result. She was paid just £100 a month.
Ramani came to work in Britain from India in 2005. She suffered psychological and racist abuse from her employer, who told her that if she left the house she would be kidnapped and raped. Her employer frequently threatened her with physical violence. She was never paid the £270 a week she had been promised.
For copies of Kalayaan’s report The New Bonded Labour go to » www.kalayaan.org.uk