Diplomats and migrant domestic workers

// 25 February 2010

There’ve been some stories in the news this week about the abuse of migrant domestic workers by diplomats. From The Times:

Diplomats at several London embassies have been accused of using migrant domestic workers as “modern-day slaves”, depriving them of food and subjecting them to systematic abuse.

The workers claim they were lured to Britain with promises of good pay, but have been beaten, sexually abused and forced to sleep in a hallway or kitchen. In the past 12 months, at least nine cases involving diplomats have been referred to a government scheme to combat trafficking.

Details have emerged after a Saudi prince was charged last week with murdering his servant in a London hotel. Police said the man had been strangled and had suffered a head injury.

[…] “There is significant evidence that migrant workers are being trafficked into the UK by diplomats and are being abused and exploited,” said Jenny Moss, community advocate at Kalayaan, a charity that supports them. Kalayaan sent 22 cases of alleged trafficking of migrant workers to the national referral mechanism, a Home Office scheme to combat trafficking, between April and December last year. Nine involved diplomats.

The Guardian explains why these individuals are in an especially vulnerable position, even compared to other migrant domestic workers (who don’t exactly have a walk in the park either):

In each case, the workers were admitted to the UK legally under a domestic worker visa programme especially for diplomats which prohibits alternative employment outside the diplomatic mission. Diplomats and senior government figures who claim diplomatic status enjoy immunity from prosecution in the UK and no charges have been brought in any of the cases. […]

The all-party parliamentary group for trafficking of women and children, led by Anthony Steen and Clare Short, has raised the problem with immigration minister, Phil Woolas. It wants him to change the visa rules for diplomats’ domestic staff to allow them to seek alternative employment, which would give them greater power to escape abusive employers.

More stories are linked from the Kalayaan website.

Comments From You

Ally // Posted 25 February 2010 at 10:20 pm

Wow. Diplomatic immunity should not apply to sexual abuse or physical violence (if it can be justified at all).

Siah // Posted 26 February 2010 at 7:46 am

Yes, I completely agree that Diplomatic Immunity should have some boundaries. I remember a few years back, a Diplomat from the UAE posted to the United States was apprehended for attempting to initiate a sexual relationship with a young girl (early to mid teens, I think) through an internet chat room. He immediately fled back to his country and faced no charges at all.

Similarly, a number of Diplomatic families abuse local workers when posted to developing countries. There are so many perks that come with a Foreign Service job, but free reign of Diplomatic Immunity is just ridiculous.

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