Human Rights Watch has called upon the House of Lords to amend visa conditions for migrant domestic workers as part of its decision making on the Modern Slavery Bill.
The bill is designed to crack-down on forced labour and the human rights abuses associated with it, but despite numerous recommendations from three parliamentary reviews it is yet to address the UK’s visa system, which Human Rights Watch says effectively ties migrant domestic workers to their employers and contributes to their abuse.
Research carried out by the organisation showed that many domestic workers face high levels of abuse, including forced labour, while working in the UK under current visa arrangements.
“The House of Lords should end a visa system that facilitates forced labour on UK soil,” said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Despite its good intentions, this bill excludes desperately needed protection for a group of extremely vulnerable workers.”
In 2012 the Government removed migrant domestic workers’ right to change employers by tying their visa to their job, as part of a broader approach to limit immigration, but this has caused some workers to effectively become trapped and open to abuse.
Since the change, research by Human Rights Watch and the charity, Kalayaan, has revealed that the tied visas have led to serious abuse against workers.
The organisation isn’t the only group to recognise the link between visa conditions and slavery.
In a report published in April 2014, a parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing the first draft of the Modern Slavery Bill found that tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse, and it urged the government to restore the right of migrant domestic workers to change employers.
But the government has not yet addressed the visa system as part of its draft bill and has openly refused to restore their right to change employers.
The group now hope that the House of Lords will consider their recommendation as they begin their talks this week.