UK Union argue new Tier 5 visa rules could increase abuse of domestic workers

Unite the Union, Britain's biggest worker's union, has urged UK immigration to drop reforms of Tier 5 domestic worker visas that were announced by the Home Office on 29 February. They claim that such changes will disadvantage migrant domestic workers as they may become trapped working for abusive employers.

According to a consensus forged across the political parties in 1998, it was agreed that migrant domestic workers should be allowed to leave their employer and work for a new employer in the UK. But now, under the new immigration rules, domestic workers on Tier 5 visas can stay a maximum of 5 years with no ability to change employers or to settle.

"These changes will consign migrant domestic workers to a life of abuse at the hands of their employer and force them to suffer in silence with no hope of justice. We do not need to re-learn the lessons that prompted political parties to come together fourteen years ago and protect domestic workers," said Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland. "We urge the government to drop these changes and recognise that turning the clock back will only serve to trap vulnerable workers in abusive employment."

Unite also expressed their plans to join forces with Justice 4 Domestic Workers, the TUC (an umbrella organisation representing most UK trade unions), Kalayaan organization, Anti-Slavery International in order to organize a campaign against controversial changes to Tier 5 domestic worker visas.

Research conducted by Kalayaan, a UK charity that provides advice, advocacy and support services in the UK for overseas domestic workers, found that of the 326 people who had registered with them in 2011, 54 percent experienced psychological abuse, 18 percent physical abuse and 7 percent sexual abuse.

Kalayaan claimed that the immigration changes for the Tier 5 visa "take us back 15 years to the days that domestic workers were deported for experiencing abuse".

"The changes would mean that any domestic workers able to escape abuse will immediately lose their right to reside in the UK, therefore greatly reduce the likelihood that they would seek help from the authorities for fear of being deported," said Kalayann in a recent statement.

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