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Monday, February 2, 1998 Published at 19:53 GMT



UK

"Slaves" want UK law change
image: [ Campaigners deliver a petition to Downing Street in an effort to change the law ]
Campaigners deliver a petition to Downing Street in an effort to change the law

The British Government is considering changing immigration laws to protect domestic servants who come to Britain to work for wealthy foreign families.

Under current legislation, overseas servants who quit their job are regarded as illegal immigrants, even if they have escaped physical and mental abuse.


[ image: A stamp in a passport ties servants to wealthy families]
A stamp in a passport ties servants to wealthy families
Elsie, a Filipino maid, left her employers because she said they treated her badly; as a result she was put in a detention centre.

"I never did anything except run away from my employer because they treated me badly. But the way the government here is treating me is worse than my employer," she said.


[ image: Elsie was detained after escaping from her employers]
Elsie was detained after escaping from her employers
Campaigners went to Downing Street on Monday morning to press for urgent action.

They say that the stamp in servants' passports that ties them to named families deprives them of basic rights and leads to them being treated as possessions.

"Failure to act would mean that overseas domestic workers would continue to come to this country as part of the baggage of their employers with no rights of their own at all," said Jean Gould of the Kalayaan Anti-Slavery Group. "That's quite an unacceptable situation."

The government says it is listening. The Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien said he hoped new measures might come into place this year.

"We're talking about making sure we're firm but fair, making sure that we can bring in changes during the course of this year in which we can make the situation of these domestic workers much better," he said.

Campaigners say change can't come too soon because they believe many domestic workers still endure abuse and work as virtual slaves for their wealthy employers.
 





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