UK visa rules could increase risk of abuse

17 Oct 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Recent proposals regarding UK visas could, if implemented, increase the level of risk of abuse for overseas workers.

A recent consultation by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) proposed ending the UK visa option for overseas domestic workers. Alternatively, the agency proposed keeping it but forbidding people the right to change their employer or seek settlement.

Instead, workers would be forced to remain in employment to the business or group that initially allowed them to enter the UK, or else leave the country entirely.

The newspapers have drawn attention to the case of Gita Lima, a nanny originally from Nepal. She has been working for prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha for years now, but was previously working for an exploitative employer. The UK visa law and the help of a charity allowed her to make the switch, but this could be made impossible for future cases if the proposals go through.

Jenny Moss, a community worker at the charity Kalayaan, which helped Ms Lima, told the Independent: “Mr Cameron clearly understands the issues faced by migrant domestic workers and the reason why the right to change employer is so important to protect them from violence and exploitation.”

She added that it appears that Mr Cameron is either unaware of the policies proposed in the Home Office, “or he has not made the connection between his government's proposals and the horrific consequences they could have for people like his own nanny”.

Research from Kalayaan backs up the suggestion that the UK visa laws could have an impact on the risk of abuse in the work place. A study by the charity found that before specific visa protections were implemented, 87 per cent of overseas domestic employees were psychologically abused and 39 per cent were physically abused.

In a sample taken in 2010, 12 years after the UK visa protections were put in place, the figures had fallen, with 54 per cent reporting psychological abuse and 18 per cent experiencing physical abuse.