Significant numbers of domestic workers are brought to the UK each year, including an unknown number who travel into and out of the UK with the families they are working for in other countries. In the UK, migrant domestic workers are currently tied to their employer by the immigration rules, increasing their vulnerability to exploitative practices by dissuading workers to come forward and risk deportation. Kalayaan, a UK-based NGO for migrant domestic workers, found high levels of exploitative treatment from employers in a 2015 study of their domestic worker clients. However, the consistently higher rates of abuse experienced by those on tied visas indicate an urgent need to review the current system. Rohiti was exploited in domestic work in Hong Kong and the UK, before running away. She explains that she is unable to pursue her employers because she is unable to stay in the UK after her visa expired.
I grew up in Indonesia. When my single mother became sick I had to find work. There was nothing in my village. I went to Hong Kong, hoping to earn enough to support her.
I was put in charge of three children 24 hours a day, with much housework. I worked for 7 months but wasn’t paid. They said I must pay off the debt for my travel first. My employers then arranged a ‘holiday’ to the UK. It turned out to be 16 hours’ work a day, sleeping on the floor, always on call. I was ordered to care for the elderly grandparents as well. That was the last straw.
I ran away, despite the fear of being homeless and deported. Kalayaan helped me. I cannot get a new job because my visa has expired. I cannot stay here. I must go home with nothing. The family who exploited me gets off “scott free”.
As told to the Human Trafficking Foundation