UK still open to foreign maids
By Alfredo G. Rosario
The Manilla Times
July 15, 2008
Britains Immigration Minister Liam Byrne has come out with a policy statement keeping the labor market open for foreign maids and allowing tourists to stay longer in the United Kingdom.
This year sees the biggest changes in Britains immigration and border security system for 45 years. Our policy will deliver strong borders, a selective migration system and an expectation that newcomers earn the right to stay, Byrne said.
His statement covered two major points: One, that the current domestic workers visa will be preserved for two years, and two, that tourist visas will have a validity of six months instead of three months.
Had the British government phased out the domestic workers visa under the point-based system, foreign maids would have lost the chance to work in that country. The maids visa policy will be reviewed after two years of operation and be made permanent if it is proven to be of maximum benefit to British households.
Byrnes announcement was in response to his governments consultations on its visitors policy with parliamentarians, community leaders, the ethnic minority and with people in India, its largest visa market.
It answered President Gloria Arroyos concern for the continued stay of Filipino maids and caregivers in Britain which she raised during her visit to London last December.
We are proud of the protection we afford overseas domestic workers, said Byrne in preserving the two-year visa for foreign maids. It is a reassurance that Filipino maids can still work in the United Kingdom. It banished their fears that the hiring of foreign maids would be stopped by the UK government.
There are thousands of Filipino maids in the UK enjoying high salary and better working conditions. They stand a good chance of becoming permanent residents or UK naturalized citizens if they can qualify under the countrys immigration laws. The policy allowing Filipino maids to continue working in Britain is a recognition of the role they play in serving British families.
Filipinos with relatives working in Britain welcome the tourists visa policy under which a permanent Filipino resident in the UK is allowed to sponsor the visit of a family member without putting up a monetary bond. However, he is required to be licensed by the UK Border Agency and will be subject to sanctions if the sponsored relative fails to return to the Philippines after six months.
The recruitment of Filipino domestic helpers has become a worldwide phenomenon, with many countries finding them a welcome addition to their peoples families. By choice, the maids find Britain, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong and some other European nations as good destination points. They enjoy good pay, ample government protection and better treatment by employers.
In Canada, many Filipino maids have become permanent residents and naturalized Canadian citizens since its government intensified the hiring of Filipino domestic helpers in the 1980s.
These maids have since petitioned for the immigration of family members and are now living with them in relative comfort in their adopted country. Many have taken up new jobs commensurate with their college courses, whether earned in the Philippines or in Canada.
In Italy, Filipino domestic helpers take two or more jobs to increase their income. Many have decided to stay in the country as immigrants with their families.
There are an estimated 160,000 Filipino maids in Hong Kong who are well protected by its labor laws. An employer who compels his maid to do non-household chores, like washing a car, is subject to sanctions calling for a heavy fine or a jail sentence. Recently, the maids salary was increased from HK$3,480 to HK$3,580.
It is in the Middle East countries where Filipino maids often encounter problems of employers abuse and exploitation. Contract substitution is prevalent, resulting in the payment of reduced salaries. In some instances, maids are driven to commit suicide by jumping from windows because of employers torture or sexual abuse.
The government should take a selective deployment policy organizing marketing missions to countries where Filipino maids are treated well and closing destination points where they are maltreated and exploited. It has done this by banning the deployment of domestic helpers to Lebanon.
The sending of maids to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, which have registered a high incidence of runaway Filipino maids due to maltreatment should be reviewed with a view to formulating a new deployment policy.