The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Modern slavery: 'thousands' fall victim to abusive employers every year

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According to the Dispatches programme that aired on Channel 4 yesterday night, 15,000 foreign domestic workers leave their families to come to the UK each year -- many coerced physically and/or subjected to extreme economic and mental duress. After they arrive, thousands fall prey to additional psychological, physical, and sexual abuse from employers, and live essentially as slaves.

Kalayaan, a west London charity that helps and advises migrant domestic workers, says two-thirds of its clients report being psychologically abused. "That means they've been threatened and humiliated, shouted at constantly and called dog, donkey, stupid, illiterate," says Kalayaan advocate Jenny Moss. She adds 20% of clients report being physically abused or assaulted, including being "burnt with irons, threatened with knives, and having boiling water thrown at them".

"The first thing to understand when we're talking about slavery is that we're not using a metaphor," said Aidan McQuade from Anti-Slavery International. "Many of the instances of domestic servitude we find in this country are forced labour -- a classification that includes retention of passports and wages, threat of denunciation and restriction of movement and isolation."

Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent Richard Martin says: "Some victims are being chained to the kitchen sink, working seven days a week, 20 hours a day, for little or no pay. We have had cases of workers being forced to eat scraps off the table, so some of them are not even fed properly, and are assaulted and abused. We've had cases where women have been raped."

If you are a foreign domestic worker and have a problem with your employer, you have left an employer who is keeping your passport, or you simply wish to understand more about your rights, you can contact Kalayaan to make an appointment for free employment and immigration advice at 020 7243 2942.

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