Posted on 08/05/2015

My Life As An Undocumented Domestic Migrant Worker in London

Speech delivered by an FDWA-UK member


Talking in front of a crowd is not a thing I like to do, specially to a crowd like you. But considering the contribution I am making to this community gives me strength to speak out and share my  experience. But given that policies and the media has demonized us as illegal, I am scared. I am scared of being in detention after this speech. It is a gamble to stand here, but I would like to take this risk with the hope that I can have an impact on future decisions on making laws for undocumented domestic migrants.

How did I become undocumented?

When I visited London in 2002, I saw a chance to better my life economically and financially through acquiring work and not through claiming benefits as the politicians and media always claim. I came from a country where there is no such benefit claims. I was trained to earn every penny to survive. For me it is a basic human instinct to grab a rare opportunity if it means to better my life in a decent way. Nobody wants to be undocumented, but most were forced due to some circumstances, such as constant changing of immigration rules and introduction of anti migrant rules. In my case, I was able to find a job from the very beginning to support myself. I did not practice my profession as an accountant due to the requirement of having to enrol and pay for a UK educational requirement, but I was able to find good work and employers in DOMESTIC industry. Some of my friends who came ahead of me on the same route were able to work out their immigration status, with the help of their employer, but then the law changed during my time here. DOMESTIC work is not recognised as highly-skilled work and is not in short-occupation category, despite the fact that a lot of people, especially well to do families in the UK are in need of domestic workers. Given all these difficulties, I helplessly ended up becoming undocumented.

My contribution as undocumented migrant to the London community

From the very beginning I was here, I noticed that there was a need for domestic workers. Hence, despite my immigration status I was able to find a work in a restaurant, pubs, offices and family houses. These sectors of the community need domestic workers to make them productive in their lives and businesses. Most domestic work here in London is being done by migrants. There is no month or year that I did not have a job, this is affirms that DOMESTIC work is in demand in this country.

Most working people need domestic help in their house to be productive in their work. Domestic work, most of the time, is based on trust. People trusted me with the keys to their houses for years to maintain it. It is not normal to trust a key to your house to people you don’t know, but I have been holding keys to seven different houses here in London for years. As a nanny, i help parents to look after their kids while growing. Sometimes, the lives of their children and pets are in our hands while they are away.

Like regular citizens in this country, we are not exempted in paying bills. We pay our rent, which helps landlords pay their mortgages. In my area, many landlords were saved from foreclosure during the financial crisis because of our contributions. In short, some of the money we earn is returned to the economy that helps the UK industry.

Disadvantages of being undocumented

Being undocumented makes me feel less human. It creates fear and insecurities. My life is very limited, and I have been unable to visit my family for 12 years.  It is a very vulnerable life, that when you don’t fight for your rights, you will be exploited and abused. We have no recourse to public services and protection from the state. There is no personal growth, you cannot practice your profession and you cannot go for further training. You don’t have access to health and other services. Thanks to the availability of some charity and NGO service that  help us, we have some support system.

Appeal or message

We are here for so long, we are like you; we have employers, and we work diligently in order to survive. We were able to integrate and identify ourselves as part of this community. Contrary to what politicians and the media says, we don’t depend and never claim benefits from the state. We have no access to even the most basic protection of our rights and wellbeing.

I dream of the day when I am free to go home and come back here or elsewhere.

That all domestic migrants have the freedom to travel and establish themselves wherever they choose.  We are all worthy of opportunity and the chance to progress. We have all the right to a better life. Stop using us for the sake of politics. We want you to recognise our contribution, and give us the dignity we deserve. Thank you.

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