Government changes to domestic worker visas could put thousands at risk of serious exploitation

29th Feb 2012

Oxfam is warning that government plans announced today in Parliament, to change visa rules for migrant domestic workers, could put thousands at risk of severe exploitation.

Oxfam's Director of UK Poverty, Chris Johnes, said: "Backtracking on this policy will put thousands of predominantly female workers, who come to the UK to work as live in domestic help, at risk of exploitation.

"This new ruling means that workers will lose the right to leave an abusive employer for another household and will have no way of challenging exploitation without losing their immigration status. By limiting their entry to six months, there is a significant risk that employers may avoid using the Visa and traffic workers so that they can keep them for more than six months, therefore reducing the control the Government has over the immigration system."

Oxfam was one of a number of organisations that campaigned against the abolition of the visa in 2008. The majority of migrant domestic workers are women from developing countries. The provision to change employers was introduced with the specific aim of protecting this vulnerable, predominantly female, workforce after hundreds of reports of horrific abuse.

Johnes said. "Before the Domestic Worker Visa was brought in many women were living in dreadful conditions, not being allowed out of the house, sleeping on the floor, being denied meals or time off and even physically and mentally abused."

/Ends

For more information please contact: Sarah Dransfield, Oxfam press Officer, on 01865 472269, 07767 085636 orsdransfield@oxfam.org.uk

Notes to editors:

Although 15,000 migrant domestic workers enter the UK each year, the vast majority of those (94 per cent) return home with their employers. Only approximately 1000 individuals stay on and renew their visas each year.