Witnesses who overcame terror to give evidence

MOST THINGS were denied to Francisca Ifekaozor by her employer. She was not to go out of the house in south-east London; she was not allowed to watch television; she was not allowed to make any noise: 'One day, I went to prepare my breakfast . . . unfortunately I mistakenly dropped the sugar bowl and she heard the noise . . . she grabbed my hair and punched me in the back.'

This was in 1990 - a year after the 26-year-old catering student had arrived from Nigeria to work for Elizabeth Chandler, a registered nurse with British citizenship. Francisca thought this would be her opportunity. 'Both my parents were dead. I was really excited,' she said.

Her hopes were quickly dashed. Chandler treated her like a slave, beating her with shoes, abusing her, forcing her to sleep on the floor - 'I was so afraid of the lady', she said. In 1991, she found her chance to escape and has been living since then in a women's refuge in south London.

She has lived in fear for most of that time, worried that Chandler would find her. Last year, the Independent told her story and was contacted by a friend of Florence Mokolo. She too had been brutally ill-treated by Chandler and had also escaped. She was hiding in the south London house of a health worker. Ms Mokolo, 22, was so frightened of discovery that she refused even to answer the telephone. Deptford police arrested Chandler.

It was difficult for both of them to give evidence against a woman they still find terrifying. Her conviction yesterday was a tribute to their courage. Jean Gould, their solicitor, said: 'This case is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many domestic workers working in Britain who are subject to treatment like slaves.'

There are as many as 20,000 migrant servants in the UK, leading more or less invisible lives, held captive in the homes of employers.

Like Ms Ifekaozor, they are allowed into the country 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. Most servants, threatened with this, are prepared to endure abuse rather than return home.

Next month, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, leads a delegation to the Home Office on behalf of the Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers, which supports and advises runaway domestic servants, as part of the campaign to improve their legal standing. Sister Margaret Healy, one of the co-ordinators, said: 'The verdict is a great boost to all of us but the injustice remains.'

Ms Ifekaozor is luckier than most. She has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Unwittingly, Ms Mokolo came to Britain on a false passport supplied by Chandler and is therefore an illegal immigrant.

Ms Gould has applied to the Home Office to allow her to remain. She has no relatives in Nigeria. So far there has been no official response. 'That would be a travesty if the reward for courage is deportation,' she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test