To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
HRW reveals how migrant domestic workers in the UK are subjected to serious abuses, including forced labour and physical and psychological abuse.
Human Rights Watch's report "Hidden Away: Abuses against Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK", states Britain's government is doing far too little to protect vulnerable workers, and recent changes to the country's immigration rules make it harder for workers to flee abuse.
"It's scandalous that in modern Britain, migrant domestic workers are subject to such appalling abuses," said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at the organisation. "But instead of protecting these workers, the system makes it harder for them escape."
The report documents the confiscation of passports, confinement to the home, physical and psychological abuse, extremely long working hours with no rest days, and very low or non-payment of wages. The report also shows the UK government has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to protect migrant domestic workers and enable them to access justice if they are mistreated.
In April 2012, the UK abolished the right of migrant domestic workers to change employers once they are in the UK against the recommendations of Parliament, non-governmental organisations, and UN experts. Under the terms of the new "tied visa", overseas domestic workers cannot legally leave their employer and find new work, meaning those abused can become trapped.
Every year, about 15 000 migrant domestic workers arrive in the UK. Many of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch were women from Asia or Africa who previously worked for their employers and had already experienced abuse there at the hands of their employers.
"The UK government is failing in its duty to protect migrant domestic workers, who all too often are victims of horrific hidden abuse," Leghtas said. "If it's serious about ending what it calls modern-day slavery, the government should recognize just how vulnerable these workers are and give them the protection they deserve."