A British court has ruled in favor of a Filipina domestic worker who accused her former Saudi employers of trafficking and slavery; a landmark ruling which could pave the way for other similar victims to pursue justice.
The Filipina, identified by Thomson Reuters Foundation as Cherrylyn Reyes, claimed that Saudi diplomat Jarallah Al-Malki and his wife subjected her to racial abuse, confiscated her passport, never allowed her to leave the house and paid her less than the agreed wage.
Reyes fled the diplomat’s residence in Britain and went to an employment tribunal in 2011 but was told the case could not be tried because of her employer’s diplomatic immunity. The Court of Appeals also refused her claims on the same ground.
However, on Wednesday, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that Reyes’s case should now be tried since Al-Malki have already lost his diplomatic immunity after completing his posting and leaving Britain in 2014.
Reyes said in a statement she knows there are domestic workers who are suffering just like her.
“I am delighted that they will be able to use this case to get redress,” the Filipina said.
Zubier Yazdani, a solicitor who represented Reyes, and Kalayaan, a group dedicated to improving the plight of Filipino migrant workers, in court, said: “(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.”
Lord Wilson said it was an “an apparent serious case of domestic servitude in our capital city”, but clarified the ruling was not making any judgement yet on Reyes’ allegation since the hearing have so far focused on whether the accused could still claim immunity.
Nevertheless, several groups hailed the ruling especially that it falls on the observance of the Anti-Slavery Day.