‘END MODERN SLAVERY!’ – Migrant workers lobby Parliament

Migrant workers’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday morning
Migrant workers’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday morning

MIGRANT domestic workers lobbied Parliament yesterday, World Human Rights Day, demanding an end to modern slavery.

Workers were joined at the lobby by supporters including Labour MP David Hanson and Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland.

A life-size message board held personal stories highlighting workplace abuse.

The campaign is calling for the reinstatement of the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa and the scrapping of the Tied Domestic Worker Visa which ties workers to their initial employer on entering the country, effectively making them slaves.

Marissa Begonia, chair of Justice For Domestic Workers, told News Line: ‘Today is World Human Rights Day but Domestic Workers have no human rights at all.

‘Even with the review of the Modern Slavery Bill we are still tied to one employer, we are still slaves. If the government is serious they must change the law now.

‘The rights of domestic workers must be brought back and the Overseas Domestic Workers Bill must be reinstated now.

‘We have witnessed so much abuse and exploitation but the current law means we can’t do anything about it.

‘With domestic workers that we have rescued and housed from slavery we have heard cases of rape, starvation, people being beaten and not paid at all.

‘Personal phone use is restricted. When I talk to workers, I sometimes have to call them after midnight so they aren’t caught.

‘For those who actually do get paid, the average is £30 a month for 16-hour days.

‘Employers exploit undocumented workers, threatening to get them deported if they complain about treatment or attempt to get a new job. It’s the same thing as putting chains round their ankles.

‘We want the right to change employer, the right to settlement. We demand freedom and justice now.’

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland told News Line about the campaign: ‘At the very time when the rights of domestic workers are starting to be raised across the world with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention, things are going backwards in this country.

‘With the Modern Slavery Bill in the Lords now we think it’s the right time to highlight this issue because this Christmas thousands of domestic workers won’t even be able to phone their friends and family let alone get time off to visit.

‘The bill must be amended to give clear rights to migrant domestic workers.’