Law underlines 'slave status' of domestics: Many foreign servants brought to the UK suffer physical and emotional abuse by employers, it is claimed. Tim Kelsey reports

MANY overseas domestic servants working in Britain suffer physical or mental abuse, according to the first survey of runaway migrant workers conducted in the UK. Some are treated as virtual slaves.

Most of the estimated 20,000 domestic servants in Britain are allowed in under a concession in the immigration law which enables foreign visitors to bring in domestic staff. They are liable to deportation should they stop working for their employer.

Threatened with this, some servants are prepared to endure abuse rather than return to their countries of origin. The Home Office does not keep full statistics but the numbers of migrant domestic workers arriving here is steadily increasing. In the first eight months of 1992, 8,613 entry clearances were issued under the concession.

According to Britain's Secret Slaves, a report jointly compiled by Anti- Slavery International and Kalayaan, an organisation which is campaigning to give domestic workers legal rights independent of their employers, many of these servants are treated with exceptional inhumanity.

The report, to be published later this week, includes a survey of 250 domestic servants of 17 nationalities. It found that 89.1 per cent were subject to psychological abuse. Most were also regularly denied food; were made to sleep in the hall, kitchen, or even toilet; and were not paid as promised or, in some cases, not paid at all. Most concern will be focused on the fact that nearly a third were victims of physical abuse and that 8.6 per cent suffered sexual abuse.

Alice was one victim. She came to London after two-and-a-half years of service in Kuwait. While in the UK, she was woken on one occasion at 4am and ordered to prepare breakfast for her employer. He followed her into the kitchen and attempted to rape her. 'I managed to kick him there, and he crawled back into his bedroom,' she said. 'But I was so frightened because he said he would kill me, and I didn't know what he would do.' The Indian housekeeper gave her pounds 50 and told her to run away. She escaped through a hole in the wall as all the doors were fitted with alarms to keep the servants inside the house.

Under British law, Alice then lost all legal rights. She had left her employer, breached the terms of her entry and had become an illegal immigrant. She, like most others, had no idea of the nature of her entry status in the UK. Most employers - according to the report, more than 80 per cent - confiscate the servants' passports when they arrive. Alice could not work legally for anyone else, nor receive any benefit from the state. She is vulnerable to further abuse from unscrupulous British employers who see the chance of cheap labour. 'I must work all the time because tomorrow maybe I will be picked up and sent home, or maybe I will be ill, and unable to earn money for weeks, because we are not eligible for any kind of benefit,' Alice said.

Alice is luckier than some because she, at least, is still in Britain. The Government has refused to recognise that the exploitation of domestic servants is a direct consequence of its refusal to grant these workers independent legal rights. They can only work for the employer they come to Britain with, whatever the level of abuse.

The report urges the Home Office to give domestic servants the right to change employers; and the right to settle after four years. Lord Hylton, long an advocate of improved rights for domestic workers, said: 'Proper protection is urgently needed. It is time to right the wrongs taking place on our own door step: the Government must give overseas domestic workers, often women who are the sole or principal bread-winner of the family, a status which recognises that they are workers.'

Britain's Secret Slaves; Anti-Slavery International, 180 Brixton Road, London SW9 6AT; pounds 5.50.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker