Government urged to change UK visa system to avoid 'modern day slavery'

19 Mar 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The government has been encouraged to review the UK visa system in order to avoid the creation of what has been dubbed modern day slavery.

A study of 24 domestic workers conducted by researchers at University College London found that these individuals were brought to the country on tied visas, meaning that they were unable to move jobs and remain in the country.

The researchers found that of those questioned the majority had experienced some form of abuse at the hands of their employers, ranging from economic abuses in the form of being denied holiday and kept on extremely low pay, through to physical and sexual abuse.

By continuing to allow tied visas to exist, the university team have accused the UK government of 'recreating kafala' – a system used in the Gulf that has been closely linked with abuse of workers.

Virginia Mantouvalou, co-director of the university's Institute for Human Rights, spoke to the Guardian about the findings: “We are recreating kafala. Even if they escape their exploitative or abusive employers, they become undocumented and are caught in cycles of exploitation. These are our modern-day slaves.”

Charity Kalayann, which is calling for the repeal of the tied visa legislation, also worked on the study. In its own interviews it found that some 16 per cent of workers who are tied to their employers reported experiencing physical abuse, with almost three-quarters claiming that they were never allowed to leave the house and over half stating that they were forced to work more than 16 hour days.

The legislation was brought in in 2012 by the coalition government. Some have accused David Cameron and his political colleagues of introducing legislation that favours wealthy people from the Gulf nation, citing the imitation of the 'kafala' regime as part of this.