One of our close partners, the Voice of Domestic Workers had an emergency meeting last Friday with key campaign partners to take stock of the negative response from the government to their petition which called for the reinstatement of the pre-2012 Overseas Domestic Workers Visa.
This blow was the government’s gift to migrant domestic workers on International Women’s Day. Students in last Sunday’s ESOL class, which is a partnership between EFA and the Voice of Domestic Workers (VoDW), studied the government text, and considered what this means for their campaign. It is not easy to understand the current system, let alone explain it to their supporters.
In the class, we looked at the powerful argument made by a fellow domestic worker, Amarah, in VoDW’s book “Our Journey.” In the book, she comments on her experience of navigating the system in place for Victims of Trafficking, which is the only system through which there is any hope for migrant domestic workers (MDWs) to renew their visas.
Amarah writes: “I have just recently received the positive CG decision which recognises me as a victim of human trafficking. This means I can now apply for a two years domestic worker visa. But even though the Home Office granted me with this, I am somehow still upset. I feel that there is still no justice – my abusive employers are free and me, as a worker, I really don’t want to be treated as a trafficked victim who needs to be supported by the government – what I want is to be recognised as worker, an independent worker, who is able to provide for my family.”
On Mother’s Day, it was clear why they are here, along with the millions of sister migrant domestic workers around the world: to financially support their families. The basic right to be able do this should be the only argument for rights they need to make, in a world of massive economic imbalance. The ESOL class is attending the Ella Baker School of Organising’s training next week on “Theories of Change”, as part of their commitment to networking, building solidarity and understanding the systems of oppression they are fighting against.
“My name is Amarah. I am from the Southeast Asia. I am a mother of three and the bread winner in our family. My employer from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, brought me to London in 2014, after ten months of working for them. When we landed, a fleet of cars were waiting for us.
Working for my Emirati employers was tough, and I could even describe it as hellish. I was working 24/7 without any day off for breaks during the day. Even drinking water in the middle of the day was not allowed, to the point that I had
to hide a bottle of water in my bucket with my cleaning materials so I could drink while I was cleaning the toilet and no one could see me. I was not properly fed and not properly compensated, because little mistakes in my work were deducted from my salary. There were months in which I did not get paid.
But I had the courage to escape and free myself from all of their abuses. Although I was so scared, I managed to do it, full of hopes and dreams for a better future for my family. I became undocumented for two years, and homeless. I struggled and was scared of being caught and deported. In 2016, a friend brought me to Justice for Domestic Workers, now TVoDW. I found hope. I found out that the only option I had was to be referred to the NRM and be assessed as a victim of trafficking. TVoDW referred me to Kalayaan for the NRM assessment. After a few weeks, I received a positive Reasonable Grounds (RG) decision 18, which gave me the Leave to Remain, temporarily, for 45 days or more, while waiting to know about the final decision.
But during this period, I am not allowed to work. This is very difficult, to not be able to work – my children needed my financial support. I had to remit to them my weekly allowance as a victim of human trafficking, which was £35 per week. TVoDW and friends would help me with my other needs. This is how I survived for over two years while this NRM process lasted.
I found this process very traumatic and stressful. I had always the fear of what would be the result of the NRM – especially the pressure of getting a negative result. If that was the outcome, I would have no choice but going back to the Philippines. I didn’t know how else to prove that I was a victim of trafficking. I didn’t know how else to prove what happened behind those closed doors, in my employers house, between him and me. I felt that my experience and story was questioned, as they were just relying on what I said and I couldn’t give any witness that I was trafficked and abused. I had a medical report from the Helen Bamber Foundation, as I went through their treatment. They wrote a report about the impact of my trauma. This report was important for the final result, I think. I feel so angry because my perpetrators are free, coming in and out of the country while there was already an investigation. And yet, they never paid for what they have done.
I have just recently received the positive CG decision which recognises me as a victim of human trafficking. This means I can now apply for a two years domestic worker visa. But even though the Home Office granted me with this, I am
somehow still upset. I feel that there is still no justice – my abusive employers are free and me, as a worker, I really don’t want to be treated as a trafficked victim who needs to be supported by the government – what I want is to be
recognised as worker, an independent worker, who is able to provide for my family.
I am very grateful for all the support and help from TVoDW and I promised to myself that I will remain active and always be the voice of my fellow domestic workers to fight for our rights.”