Trafficked Filipino Helper Wins Case Vs Saudi Employer

A Filipino domestic helper has won a landmark case in the United Kingdom against her Saudi employer whom she accused of trafficking and treating her like a slave, paving the way for other victims to sought for justice, activists said on Wednesday.

Cherrylyn Reyes went to an employment tribunal in 2011, claiming her former employers, Jarallah Al-Malki and his wife, had subjected her to racial abuse, taken her passport, and paid less than the minimum wage.
The tribunal and the Court of Appeal refused to hear her claims because her employers had diplomatic immunity in Britain, which meant they could not be tried.

Yet, Al-Malki’s full diplomatic immunity had been revoked after he concluded his post and left Britain in 2014, said its Supreme Court. He then should hear Reyes’ allegations of abuse.

“I know there are lots of other domestic workers who have suffered like me,” Reyes said in a statement. “I am delighted that they will be able to use this case to get redress.”

The allegations against the Saudi diplomat and his wife were not yet examined as hearings so far focused on whether the couple could claim immunity.

It the Supreme Court’s first ruling on a case involving a domestic worker, said Kalayaan, a charity campaigning to improve migrant domestic workers’ rights.

“(This) represents a significant inroad into chipping away at the veil of immunity that has so far shielded diplomats who have trafficked their domestic workers,” said Zubier Yazdani, a solicitor who represented Kalayaan and Reyes in the court case.

Although former diplomats are granted limited residual immunity, the Supreme Court said the charge did not apply to Al-Malki as his employment of Reyes fell outside his “official functions”.

Charities say at least 17,000 domestic workers are brought to Britain each year, many of whom are potentially trafficked and exploited by employers who lock them up, beat and abuse them and withhold their pay, yet find it hard to escape since Britain imposed visa rules in 2012 that tie them to their employer – in an attempt to limit immigration – critics say.

“This is a landmark decision from the Supreme Court, which has left the doors open for other such cases to follow,” Avril Sharp of Kalayaan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
“Diplomatic immunity should not act as a bar to enforcing rights and is at odds with the UK’s stated aims of combating and preventing modern slavery.”