The U.S. on Tuesday said in-person registration of domestic workers of foreign diplomats would be mandatory, an apparent fallout of the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade over alleged misrepresentation of the salary paid to her maid.
Without making any reference to the Khobragade case, which resulted in a stalemate in India-U.S. ties, the first-ever Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the U.S. contained a series of announcements on domestic workers and their alleged exploitation.
The action plan, released by the White House, stated that the in-person registration of domestic help of diplomats in Washington would be done soon after their arrival in the U.S.
The move came amid controversy over the arrest of Ms. Khobragade, the former Indian Deputy-Consul General in New York, on charges of visa fraud and misrepresentation of facts following complaints of exploitation lodged against her by her maid Sangeeta Richard. Both India and Ms. Khobragade have refuted the charges.
The action plan, released at a White House event by Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, stated: “Department of State will develop procedures for the in-person registration of domestic workers employed by diplomatic personnel in the Washington DC area shortly after their arrival in the U.S. to apprise them further of their rights and available services.”
However, it did not mention anything about in-person registration of foreign domestic workers in cities like New York, where a significantly large number of diplomats are posted.
Running into 80 pages, the document said the State Department will continue to address the protection of A-3 and G-5 workers through its regular internal working group meetings on domestic worker issues, which reviews allegations and cases, and discusses strategies and ongoing efforts to prevent abuse and ensure compliance with its requirements.
A-3 and G-5 visas are for foreign domestic workers who come to the U.S. with diplomats or foreign officials who work with international bodies like the UN, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The State Department will continue to streamline referrals of potential victims to its Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which coordinates with the Department of Justice and other agencies to investigate allegations of abuse.
According to the document, the State Department will continue to brief stakeholders annually, including NGOs, to raise awareness about efforts to protect and identify victims of trafficking.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs, with assistance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, will develop a “Know Your Rights” video to provide information on protections for certain employment- and education-based non-immigrant visa applicants, including domestic workers.
Recognising the vulnerabilities inherent in domestic work and the need to foreclose avenues of exploitation, particularly of those employed by diplomats, the State Department will continue its efforts to educate foreign mission personnel and their domestic workers about U.S. federal, State, and local laws, including protections for domestic workers employed by diplomatic personnel.
The document said the Bureau of Diplomatic Security will create an online human trafficking investigation education course that includes instructions on how to identify and treat potential trafficking victims, the best practices to successfully investigate and prosecute trafficking offences, and how to refer victims for services.
Munoz said the five-year plan lays out a path for increased coordination, collaboration, and capacity across the federal government and in partnership with other governmental and nongovernmental entities at all levels.
“It describes the steps that federal agencies will take to ensure that all victims of human trafficking in the United States are identified and have access to the services they need to recover and to rebuild their lives.
“This includes a victim services network that is comprehensive, trauma-informed, and responsive to the needs of all victims, regardless of the type of trafficking they endured, and regardless of race, colour, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status,” Ms. Munoz said.