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Home Office concedes its new rules risk abuse of overseas domestic workers


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Just a quick catch up post to alert readers to the Government’s response to the damning report by James Ewins, published on 17 December 2015, and developments since then. The review concluded that the Coalition Government’s amendments to the Immigration Rules on overseas domestic workers exposed them to enhanced risk of abuse and modern slavery:

Looking at the evidence of tied visas generally, it is the widely – near unanimously – held view that where immigration laws tie a migrant domestic worker’s status to a specific employer, the vulnerability of that worker to abuse, including to slavery and human trafficking, increases.

The Government’s response is essentially to concede that this is so and to promise to amend the rules, although not going as far as allowing changes of employer for up to two and half years, as recommended by Ewins:

The Government does, however, acknowledge the case which has been put forward for providing ODWs with an immediate escape route from abuse. On the basis of advice from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner we have therefore come to the view that there should be two distinct elements to our approach to the employer tie. First, we will provide those admitted as ODWs with the ability to take alternative employment as a domestic worker with a different employer during the six month period for which they are originally admitted. This ability to take alternative employment will not depend on whether or not they have been found to be the victim of abuse.

Second, we will go further and amend the provisions of the Immigration Rules introduced in October of last year to increase the period for which an extension of stay will be granted to an ODW who has been the subject of a positive conclusive grounds decision under the National Referral Mechanism from six months to two years. This is in addition to the existing provisions under which discretionary leave may be granted to those, for example, assisting the police with their enquiries or pursuing a compensation claim.

The amended rules have now been published and come into effect on 6 April 2016. See last week’s post on Statement of Changes HC877.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.