Written evidence submitted by Kalayaan



  1. Kalayaan was established in 1987 and is the UK’s leading charity offering advice, advocacy and support services to migrant domestic workers. This workforce, predominantly female workers from the Philippines, are permitted to enter the UK on the Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) visa to undertake domestic labour for either private individuals or serving diplomats[1]. This work includes, but is not limited to, childcare responsibilities, elderly care, cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring.


  1. Kalayaan is a designated First Responder Organisation (FRO) to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK’s one and only system for formally identifying and providing support to suspected slavery survivors. We have held this status since the NRM was established in 2009. Previous to this we participated in the Home Office pilot for identifying victims of trafficking for forced labour (‘Operation Tolerance’). Kalayaan is currently one of 10 non-statutory organisations to hold the role of First Responder in the UK. We also provide long term, holistic support, tailored to individual need according to the survivor. We do this outside of any constraints of government contracts or funding.


  1. Kalayaan’s expertise on issues affecting and experienced by migrant domestic workers, and on the issue of trafficking for the purpose of domestic servitude, is widely recognised. We have delivered training to the police and to the (formerly known as) UK Human Trafficking Centre on issues relating to migrant domestic workers. Kalayaan has provided expertise on migrant domestic workers at an international level; we were a Titular delegate of the
    UK Trades Union Congress in the ‘decent work for domestic workers’ committee of the United Nations International Labour Conference and have been invited to speak about migrant domestic workers by a number of British and International groups. Kalayaan has also produced and contributed to a number of publications and parliamentary submissions about issues facing migrant domestic workers in the UK, as well as barriers and difficulties experienced by those workers who enter the NRM and request to be formally identified as survivors of exploitation.



  1. Kalayaan is a member of the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) who have made a submission to this inquiry. Kalayaan’s submission is designed to be read in conjunction with the ATMG’s submission.


  1. Kalayaan is also a member of the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG). Again, Kalayaan’s submission is designed to be read in conjunction with the LEAG’s submission.


  1. Where indicated, Kalayaan refers to and relies on the submissions made by either or both ATMG and LEAG’s submission when addressing the Committee’s Terms of Reference for this inquiry.


  1. Kalayaan’s submission to this inquiry is broadly broken down into four areas of concern:


a)      Lack of a prevention strategy for the UK including unenforceable rights at work, resulting in unacceptable risks of harm

b)      Lack of action in response to the numbers of slavery survivors being identified in the UK and the resultant risks of re-trafficking

c)       Lack of rights in the National Referral Mechanism, including the prohibition on access to work, and the resultant risks of re-trafficking

d)      Lack of meaningful engagement with those with lived experience of abuse at work and as survivors of trafficking and slavery


Q1: What is the scale and nature of human trafficking in the UK?


  1. With regards to the different types of exploitation, Kalayaan would refer the Committee to the ATMG and the LEAG’s respective submissions, seeing as their response to this question includes all forms of abuse amounting to trafficking and slavery in the UK for both adults and children.


  1. We would also like to draw the Committee’s specific attention to paragraph 4 of the LEAG’s submission which refers to another group of individuals who must be considered when parliamentarians and policy makers are legislating and developing and or reviewing immigration policies, in addition to those specifically designed to support and protect survivors of exploitation. This group includes those who will have faced violations of their labour law rights as workers, but who may not meet the legal definition of having been trafficked or enslaved. If the labour law rights and protections of this group of people are not enforceable in practice for whatever reason, then they are at heightened risk of one day becoming survivors of extreme abuse, including treatment that amounts to trafficking and slavery. We speak in more detail of the particular risk faced by migrant domestic workers later on in our submission.


  1. As has previously been said by Kalayaan, other front line service providers, academics and professionals working in this sector, parliamentarians and policy makers must take steps to avoid focusing solutions and resources that only look at severe forms of abuse such as treatment that amounts to trafficking and slavery, but must instead look at the full spectrum of abuse. This is sometimes referred to as the Continuum of Exploitation, which ranges from labour law breaches at one end, such as failure to pay and enforce the National Minimum Wage, and at the other end, severe exploitative conditions that amount to trafficking and or slavery. Having rights at work to challenge abuse is key to preventing labour law breaches from escalating to more severe forms of abuse. If labour law breaches are left undetected, unchallenged, or the rights in question are unenforceable, this runs the real risk that workers will, at some point, end up being trafficked or enslaved.


  1. In respect of question 1(c), Kalayaan would like to specifically highlight to the Committee the Government’s declaration, over a year ago now, to remove the ‘Family Worker Exemption’ from the National Minimum Wage Regulations. At the time, the Government said they would do so ‘when parliamentary time allows’. We are therefore disappointed that this has still not been done when the Government recognises that the exemption is a modern slavery loophole and it discriminates and disproportionately affects domestic workers who are women.[2]


Q2: How effective is the UK’s approach to discouraging the demand that leads to trafficking?


  1. The legislative and policy framework which applies to migrant domestic workers in the UK is directly attributable to the abuse faced by this workforce at work. This includes instances of trafficking and slavery, as well as migrant domestic workers being re-trafficked after they have arrived in the UK. This is because this workforce, recognised as being especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, has no rights in which they can challenge abuse when it arises.


  1. Prior to April 2012, migrant domestic workers were admitted to the UK on the Original Overseas Domestic Worker visa (in place starting from 1998). This gave workers certain basic but fundamental rights at work, including the right to change employer, the right to renew their visa, the right to be joined by their spouses and children under 18 years old, and after five years of continuous work as a domestic worker, the right to apply for settlement. This was all whilst on a visa that was issued with no recourse to public funds, and saw workers contribute via tax contributions, immigration application fees, the Immigration Health Surcharge and associated costs to immigration advisors to advise and prepare such applications.


  1. In April 2012, the then UK Government ushered in changes to the terms of this visa, claiming they were restoring it to its original purpose, which was to facilitate access to the UK to work for employers, and then return and leave the UK with that same employer. These changes were brought in despite vehement opposition and stark warnings that the policy and legislative changes were akin to kafala systems operating elsewhere. The changes meant that workers were tied to their employer and prohibited from leaving them even if they suffered abuse and exploitation, and should workers escape, were criminalised, lost their status in the UK and driven underground into the black economy where they were further abused by those seeking to exploit their insecure status.


  1. With the introduction of the Modern Slavery Bill, the UK Government presented themselves with the opportunity to correct this injustice and reverse the changes brought in 2012. By this point, Kalayaan had collated irrefutable evidence that the changes had only resulted in a stark increase in reported abuse by workers.[3] There had also been two parliamentary committees who had also called for the terms of the visa to be restored to what was in place prior to April 2012, the draft Modern Slavery Bill Committee finding that the 2012 changes had ‘unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master’, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the ‘removal of the right of an Overseas Domestic Worker to change employer as a backward step in the protection of the Migrant Domestic Workers, particularly as the pre-2012 regime had been cited internationally as good practice.[4][5] Despite this, the Government defeated amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill as it then was, instead providing for Section 53, which permits a migrant domestic worker who has entered into the National Referral Mechanism and been subsequently identified as a slavery survivor to then apply for a domestic worker visa for, at that point in time, a maximum of six months[6]. Such a response failed, and continues to fail to this day, to prevent such abuse from escalating to the point of extreme abuse including trafficking and slavery.


  1. As a result of parliamentary debates during the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the UK Government elected to commission an Independent Review[7] into the terms of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa and if they facilitated the abuse of workers, which was and is at odds with the Government’s objective to prevent and disrupt trafficking. This Review was evidence based, and crucially, looked at the full spectrum of abuse experienced by workers who arrive in the UK on the Overseas Domestic Worker visa. It was completed in December 2015 and made two key recommendations. Firstly, that workers should not be tied to the employer they accompany to the UK and should be permitted to change employer without condition or having to meet any evidential proof in having suffered abuse. The Review found that in order for workers to meaningfully exercise this right, they would need to be afforded the time to do so, so the Review’s linked recommendation was to permit workers to renew their domestic worker visa for a further and maximum two years. The second key recommendation was in response to the UK’s repeated failure to ensure that workers were provided with and had access to information on their rights in the UK prior to their arrival. As a result, the second key recommendation was to mandate compulsory attendance for workers at a group information session, attended by other workers, who were in the UK for more than 42 days. It was suggested that such a service be funded by an increase in the visa application fee.


  1. The UK Government responded to the Review in March 2016[8] and decided to only part accept some of the Review’s recommendations, despite committing to implement them all when they commissioned it[9]. As part of the Government’s response, they consulted with the inaugural Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner who disagreed that allowing workers to renew their visa was a necessary safeguard in the fight against abuse[10]. The Commissioner, who did not complete an evidence based review, held the view that workers who were in the UK on the visa prior to 2012 were also at risk of being re-trafficked. Kalayaan was deeply disappointed with his evidence to the Review which was, in effect, to strip workers of their rights including the right to be able to negotiate from a relative position of power to their employer, and if necessary, take steps to leave an abusive employer. The UK Government agreed with the view taken by the Commissioner, and not the findings of the Review. In April 2016, they permitted workers to be able to change employer, without needing to report any such change of employment to the Home Office, but did not permit workers to renew their visa beyond six months as they did not want to ‘facilitate a revolving door of abuse’. Kalayaan condemned the decision not to permit workers to renew their visa, which was one of the clear findings made in the Review, especially when workers who arrived in the UK prior to 2012 are required to report any change of employer whilst on the visa in order the authorities can consider initiating any action against abusive and unscrupulous employers.[11]


  1. The UK Government has repeatedly stated over the years that if migrant domestic workers experience abuse, they can avail themselves of the National Referral Mechanism to access support. This policy position is of concern two fold. Firstly, it negates the need to prevent abuse escalating to severe forms of abuse, which is what the Government aspires to do, and it also fails to recognise that abuse occurs across a spectrum, as was identified in the Review, meaning that not all abuse experienced by migrant domestic workers amounts to trafficking or slavery. It means there is a protection gap for those workers who experience violations of their labour law rights as workers, but where their treatment does not fall within the legal definition of having been trafficked or enslaved. This is what the Review’s recommendations were designed to guard against. This group of workers have no rights, and should they flee an abusive employer, will in all likelihood be further abused by those looking to exploit their insecure status.


  1. Migrant domestic workers arrive in the UK on a visa valid for six months. Previous research from Kalayaan[12] evidenced that on average workers take 29 days to leave an abusive employer, and then a further 88 days before they learn of Kalayaan, often the first place they receive trusted and regulated advice on what their options and entitlements are in the UK. It is important to note that no changes have been made to the visa application process when it comes to the issuance of information to workers either prior to or after their arrival in the UK. This issue is exacerbated following the UK Government having now abandoned their commitment to implement mandatory information sessions, the second key recommendation made in the Review. In response to a Parliamentary Question answered on 29 April 2021[13], the Government confirmed a tender exercise was completed but only 2 bids were received to run the service to deliver information sessions. No reasons were provided by the Government as to why neither of these bids were awarded the tender. Despite acknowledging the failings with regard to providing information to workers during the application process, no interim measures were put in place from when the Government committed to implement information meetings in 2016, to when they later confirmed this commitment had been abandoned in 2021.


  1. As a result of the above, workers have, since 2016, been able to change their employer in the UK but only during the validity of their visa, which remains capped at six months. It is, generally, outside of the control of the worker as to when they travel to the UK, as this is dictated by their employer, so this means that they have less, sometimes significantly less, than six months remaining on their visa when they arrive in the UK. By the time workers flee and seek advice on their position in the UK, many have only weeks remaining before their visas expire. Again this problem is exacerbated by the fact that many arrive and later flee their employer without having possession of their passport, containing their visa, or knowing any of the conditions attached to their visa and permission in the UK, not least of which is when their visa expires. The only way to get this information, despite requests from Kalayaan to the Home Office to explore potential alternatives, is to request this information directly from the Home Office via a disclosure request under the Freedom of Information Act which can take up to 30 days, all time in which a worker remains at unacceptable risk.[14]


  1. Numerous parliamentary committees, international NGOs, workers’ groups, trade unions and workers themselves have been clear that they need to have rights at work, notably the rights they had under the pre 2012 visa regime, in order to keep themselves safe at work, and able to challenge abuse when it arises. Crucially, such fundamental rights mean that abuse cannot escalate to severe forms of abuse that would come under the legal definition of trafficking or modern slavery offences. We refer the Committee to paragraph 22 of LEAG’s submission for further observations and recommendations on this particular point, with respect to removing the conditions that allow labour exploitation to thrive and adequately resourcing labour market enforcement inspectorates.


Q3: To what extent do support services meet the needs of victims who have been trafficked in or to the UK?


  1. Kalayaan is deeply concerned that the framework for identifying and supporting slavery survivors, the National Referral Mechanism, is at breaking point.
  2. It has long been acknowledged that the number of slavery survivors being identified are the tip of the iceberg, with the actual number of people exploited in the UK amounting to 10 times more.[15] There has been a lack of action on the part of the UK Government to acknowledge the pressing need for an increase in the numbers of First Responder Organisations, together with the requisite resources.[16] This cannot continue. The result is that survivors, if and when they are identified, cannot access the one system used in the UK, the National Referral Mechanism, to be formally identified, safeguarded and offered support. This situation has been deteriorating for a number of years but it now reaches breaking point. This means survivors are at real risk of experiencing further harm and abuse, including treatment that amounts to slavery.


  1. Kalayaan is currently one of 10 non-statutory organisations to hold the role of a First Responder Organisation. Kalayaan is the oldest First Responder Organisation, having been appointed to this role in 2009 when the National Referral Mechanism was established. Previous to this we participated in the Home Office pilot for identifying victims of trafficking for forced labour (‘Operation Tolerance’). Over the years, survivor trust in statutory bodies has been eroded so many opt to elect for a non-statutory organisation to refer them into the National Referral Mechanism to be formally identified.


  1. Kalayaan published an Urgent Public Announcement in January 2023 in which we highlighted and flagged our concerns and the real life implications strained capacity would have on survivors. In this announcement, we set out four recommendations we urged the UK Government to consider.[17] This announcement was followed by a report, published in February 2023, which laid bare the pressures facing First Responder Organisations across the UK and the resultant risks faced by slavery survivors.[18]  It also included the real life case study of Melissa[19] who struggled to gain access to a First Responder Organisation with capacity to refer her to the National Referral Mechanism. She was eventually successful after a charity supporting her helped to contact some CEOs of First Responder Organisations, one of which was able to take her case on. Melissa was lucky. Other survivors may not be so fortunate.


  1. The UK’s largest non-statutory organisation, The Salvation Army, had to take the ‘unprecedented emergency measure’ to temporarily suspend accepting referrals of potential victims. Kathy Betteridge, director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery told The Guardian in February 2023, ‘The Salvation Army volunteer first responder service has not closed, but we took the decision to temporarily suspend accepting new referrals for a short period so we could give proper attention to the large number of new cases recently referred to us. The fact that we had to take this unprecedented emergency measure shows how much strain the first responder system is under. We recognise that all [first responders] do their best but are working in an under-resourced system. It’s essential the system is properly funded.’[20]


  1. Any barriers to accessing the framework through which survivors are provided support and protection means there will be inevitable bottlenecks. Any barrier at any stage of the journey through the National Referral Mechanism, from pre-entry to post exit, runs the risk of system crash and or failure and a real risk of harm to survivors. Delays for survivors to access the National Referral Mechanism via a designated First Responder Organisation means they are at real risk of being re-trafficked in the absence of any support. Should these individuals later be referred and receive positive reasonable grounds decisions, they are entitled to support provision under the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract, run by The Salvation Army. This service provides tailored support to survivors, but stands to become overwhelmed by the volume of numbers of slavery survivors coming through in short succession. Kalayaan is concerned that as a result of strained capacity for non-statutory First Responder Organisations, should this issue later be resolved, service provision post entry to the National Referral Mechanism will become overwhelmed. Again, this poses risks to survivors who, at that stage, are in the framework which was designed to protect them.


  1. The issue is exacerbated by broader Government policies, some of which have been recently introduced even after survivors, First Responder Organisations and frontline NGOs warned the UK Government of the dangers of doing so. The Statutory Guidance[21] was updated in January 2023 to reflect Section 60 of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and changes to the Reasonable Grounds Decision threshold from it being ‘suspects but cannot prove’ to now being ‘based on objective factors’. As advised in a briefing from the anti-trafficking sector with regards to clause 59 of the bill as it then was, before the House of Lords at report stage: ‘Increasing the threshold for an initial NRM decision would mean shutting victims out from support, not on the basis that they were not trafficked, but on the basis that they could not provide enough evidence to reach the threshold. The implications of this are severe and would result in distrust of the system, fewer victims coming forward for fear they would not be believed and their credibility damaged and increased re-trafficking as victims with negative decisions are re-exploited due to a lack of options’.[22] Such changes mean that additional strain is placed on non-statutory First Responder Organisations who are now tasked with the added burden of collating additional information or evidence, such as medical, witness or expert statements.


  1. In addition to this, and the issues identified at the point of entry to the National Referral Mechanism, once survivors are in the system designed to protect and safeguard them, the majority of survivors are denied access to work whilst they await the final and determinative decision on their status as survivors. As noted previously, the wait survivors have to endure for the second and final decision under the National Referral Mechanism is incredibly long and is a time of extreme anxiety, confusion and uncertainty. Survivors report to Kalayaan that without access to work, they are essentially robbed of their ability to look ahead and plan for their future with many disclosing that they feel worthless, subservient and punished by a system designed to protect them.[23]


  1. A report published by Kalayaan in 2019 looked at the impact of the Immigration (Variation of Leave) Order 2016 on migrant domestic workers who entered the National Referral Mechanism.[24] This Order was introduced by the UK Government in their response to the Independent Review of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa.[25]


  1. The effect of this Order determines whether a worker has permission to continue working as a domestic worker in a private household whilst their slavery claim is being considered under the National Referral Mechanism. This right hinges on whether a worker receives a positive reasonable grounds decision during the validity of their original domestic worker visa which they used to enter the UK on, or not.[26] The research interviewed 21 workers, eleven who had permission to continue working, and ten who lost this right as their visa had already expired at the time they entered and received the first decision under the National Referral Mechanism. The reported differences between these two groups of survivors was stark. Those with permission to work reported feeling generally secure in their workplaces, self-sufficient, and able to take steps themselves to challenge abuse when it arose. This group of survivors’ main complaint was their difficulty in demonstrating they had the right to work to prospective employers in the absence of clear and tangible documents.[27] In contrast, those denied the right to work in the National Referral Mechanism were made to survive on destitution based levels of support provided under the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract which was not enough and insufficient to meet their needs, or those of their families abroad. This group of survivors were made destitute, had to rely on community members and access food banks, and in some cases, were forced to enter into informal and exploitative work.


  1. Amy[28] who was interviewed for the report said: If um Hestia give me £70 every two weeks I will er keep it and then next week again, two weeks they give us £70 again and then I send it to them, [relatives abroad] I will a little bit help. Then because sometimes I will, I have er food er, food bank. [Name of centre] refer that, give me a voucher and then I will come there to get the food bank’.


  1. Marina[29] who was interviewed for the report said: ‘It’s, it’s very difficult, I have to rely on er my friends help and and the money that I get from Hestia I budget it very carefully. My friend er knows my situation so um my friends are willing to help…It’s very difficult, um, ever ever er personal um even personal goods um of a woman. If I had an income then I wouldn’t have to keep asking for things like food’.


  1. Maria[30] who was interviewed for the report said: Of course so bad I’m always crying, praying, what can I do? Praying that lord, please let them the government allowed me to work…It’s not easy, it make me always thinking, make me sick you know’.


  1. To address slavery, the UK needs to ensure that its systems provide meaningful options which assist survivors in their recovery. This includes providing options to build independence and sustainable freedom through work, as well as through education, counselling and access to legal justice.[31]
  2. Issues regarding restrictions on around permission to work is exacerbated by extensive delays to decision making at the second and final stage of the National Referral Mechanism and not knowing when such a decision can be expected.


Q4: What evidence is there, if any, that the National Referral Mechanism process is being exploited by individuals seeking asylum in the UK?


  1. Kalayaan, as a front line support provider and the UK’s oldest First Responder Organisation, has seen no evidence that the National Referral Mechanism is being exploited by anyone, either those claiming asylum and or those claiming to be slavery survivors.


  1. Such allegations are unfounded and un-evidenced, but have been repeatedly made by senior civil servants and politicians, including the current and former Home Secretaries. Various complaints have been submitted by front line service providers and or organisations with relevant anti-trafficking policy experience, including to the Statistics Regulator who publicly reprimanded the Home Office for misusing modern slavery data, following a sector wide letter.[32]  Such thoughtless and reckless statements are made at real risk to slavery survivors.


  1. Kalayaan would refer the Committee to the ATMG’s submission (starting paragraph 39 onwards) and LEAG’s submission (paragraph 97 onwards) for further points in response to this question together with relevant evidence.


Q5: How can legislation, including the Modern Slavery Act 2015, policy and criminal justice system practice be improved to prevent and address human trafficking?


  1. All of the issues, stress points and risks identified in this submission are heightened for individuals who have experienced abuse at work as well as slavery survivors due to the long lasting impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the current cost of living crisis and the heightened and dangerous rhetoric being used by the current UK Government, which includes the trend to water down and in some cases, completely remove protections for this group of individuals.


  1. The UK lacks a clear and defined prevention strategy which is evidence based and centres and listens to the experiences of those who have been abused at work as well as survivors of trafficking and slavery.


  1. In order to take concrete steps to change this, the UK Government must urgently:


Return rights to migrant domestic workers


a)      Restore the rights migrant domestic workers had as workers and as humans by reinstating the terms of the pre-2012 Overseas Domestic Worker Visa, permitting them to change employer without restriction and provide the requisite time to find safe and decent re-employment elsewhere by letting them renew their visa. Additionally, workers should be permitted to be joined by their spouses and dependent children and become eligible for settlement after five continuous year of work as a domestic worker.


b)      Ratify ILO Convention 189 (the Convention on Domestic Workers, formally the Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers).


              Resource entry to the National Referral Mechanism and fund First Responder               Organisations


c)       Consider and decide on existing applications from specialist front line organisations to become a First Responder Organisation


d)      Establish a recruitment process (if one does not in fact already exist[33]) without further delay for prospective organisations to apply


e)      Develop and maintain a nationwide training programme for both statutory and non-statutory First Responder Organisations


f)        Provide funding for First Responder Organisations to carry out their roles



Grant permission to work to migrant domestic workers in the National Referral Mechanism


g)       Claimed safeguards during the visa application process must be rigorously enforced. It must be universal practice for all migrant domestic workers attending the visa application centre to be seen physically apart from their employer and to receive verbal and written information in a language they can understand informing them of their rights in the UK, including where to get assistance from should they suffer abuse. These terms must be expressly referenced in the contract between UK Visas and Immigration and commercial partners providing services at Visa Application Centres.


h)      Information sessions must be implemented and be made mandatory for all workers to attend to ensure their fundamental rights are protected.



i)        All migrant domestic workers referred to the National Referral Mechanism, irrespective of their visa status, must be granted permission to work. This would prevent them falling into destitution and at risk of exploitation, enable them to support themselves and their families, improve their mental health and assist in their recovery. Further, it would also ensure workers are not pressurised in to having to exit support services under the National Referral Mechanism and enter exploitative work in order to meet the requirement to be self-sufficient should they have to apply for further leave to remain.


j)        Reasonable grounds notifications must say in clear and unambiguous language at the outset that a worker’s permission to work in the National Referral Mechanism extends beyond the 30 day recovery and reflection period and continues until they receive
a conclusive grounds decision.



k)       Reasonable grounds notifications must expressly state that workers who entered the UK on the Overseas Domestic Worker visa (as well as those who are admitted to work in dipolomatic households) have the right to apply for further leave to remain if they are not granted discretionary leave on account of their individual circumstances. Kalayaan has had sight of a significant number of notifications that only refer to discretionary leave.


l)        Migrant domestic workers in the National Referral Mechanism should be issued with an Application Registration Card endorsed with their right to work. This would act as their form of ID in the UK which they can show to prospective employers together with their reasonable grounds notification.


m)    The Home Office should update workers of the status of their claims under the National Referral Mechanism every six months and provide them with a letter which they can then show to their current or prospective employers together with their Application Registration Card.


Listening to survivors of labour law violations as well as slavery and trafficking survivors


n)      Survivors must be consulted and their views and experiences centred and fully understood prior to all and any legislative and policy changes taking place which affect them


o)      The full spectrum of abuse of vulnerable workers, including labour law violations, must be considered and understood against the continuum of exploitation when developing and implementing legislative and policy decisions.


March 2023


[1] Those workers employed by diplomats are permitted to enter the UK under a different visa route which comes with different visa conditions. For the purposes of this submission, when referring to the visa that migrant domestic workers use to enter the UK, we are referring to those workers employed by private individuals, unless expressly stated otherwise.

[2] ATLEU, The Family Worker Exemption: Still in place and still driving exploitation, 10 March 2023:

[3] Kalayaan, Still enslaved: The migrant domestic workers who are trapped by the immigration rules, April 2014:

[4] Joint Committee on Draft Modern Slavery Bill, April 2014:

[5] Joint Committee on Human Rights, November 2014:

[6] Section 53, Modern Slavery Act 2015:

[7] James Ewins QC, Independent Review of the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa, December 2015:

[8] Ministerial Statement UIN HCWS583, 7 March 2016:

[9] Karen Bradley, (then) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, 17 March 2015:

[10] Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Review of the Overseas Domestic Workers Visa: Commissioner’s Recommendations, April 2016:

[11] Kalayaan, Overseas Domestic Workers left in the dark by the Immigration Act 2016, June 2016:

[12] Kalayaan, Dignity, not destitution: The impact of differential rights of work for migrant domestic workers referred to the National Referral Mechanism, October 2019:

[13] Parliamentary Question UIN HL15280, 27 April 2021:

[14] Kalayaan, Briefing on Overseas Domestic Workers for the Modern Slavery Strategy and Implementation Group (MSSIG) Prevent meeting, September 2019:

[15] The Centre for Social Justice, ‘It Still Happens Here: Fighting UK Slavery in The 2020s’, July 2020:
Walk Free, ‘Global Slavery Index 2018’:
Above link quoted in the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Strategic Plan 2019 – 2021, page 20:

[16] First Responder Organisations are designated by the UK Government to be able to identify and refer suspected slavery survivors to the National Referral Mechanism (the NRM) to be formally identified by the UK Home Office and provided with support and safeguarding during this process. Different processes apply in respect of adults and children entering the NRM. Waiting times to reach final and determinative decisions on slavery cases have risen exponentially. A report published by Kalayaan in 2019 found the longest waiting time for a migrant domestic worker in 2018 was 37 months. The delays and associated limbo and anxiety faced by survivors has only increased since then.

[17] Kalayaan, ‘BREAKING POINT: Why the UK Government needs to act NOW to protect slavery survivors, 30 January 2023:

[18] Kalayaan, ‘The National Referral Mechanism: Near Breaking Point’, 22 February 2023:

[19] The name of this survivor has been changed to protect her identity.

[20] The Guardian, ‘Modern slavery survivors could be retrafficked in UK, charities warn’, 13 February 2023:

[21] Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for England and Wales (under s49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015) and Non-Statutory Guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland, version 3.1: 

[22] Anti-Slavery International, Raising the threshold and depriving trafficking support, Briefing on Clause 59 of The Nationality and Borders Bill for Lords report stage’, March 2022:

[23] Kalayaan, Dignity, not destitution: The impact of differential rights of work for migrant domestic workers referred to the National Referral Mechanism, October 2019:


[25] Kalayaan, Dignity, not destitution: The impact of differential rights of work for migrant domestic workers referred to the National Referral Mechanism, October 2019, pages 9-11:

[26] Ibid.

[27] Survivors in this position are provided either a paper notification or an email from the Home Office which confirms their position in the National Referral Mechanism. Unlike asylum applicants, they are not issued an Application Registration Card, a physical form of ID confirming their status as an asylum seeker and their work permission / work restriction:

[28] The name of this survivor has been changed to protect her identity.

[29] The name of this survivor has been changed to protect her identity.

[30] The name of this survivor has been changed to protect her identity.

[31] Access to Work Coalition, ‘Access to work for survivors of slavery to enable independence and sustainable freedom, March 2021:

[32] Office for Statistics Regulation, Maya Esslemont and Anna Powell-Smith to Ed Humpherson: Modern slavery data, October 2022:

[33] Kalayaan, ‘Speech delivered at the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Forum at law firm Linklaters, February 2023: