Government Accountability Office Releases Domestic Worker Abuse Report

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week on abuse of domestic workers by diplomats. The report details how US efforts to address alleged abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats who have immunity could be strengthened.

The report is the result of investigations by GAO that sought to “determine the number of A-3 or G-5 visa holders who have alleged abuse by foreign diplomats with immunity since 2000” as well as review related US investigation practices and policies for issuing A-3 and G-5 visas. Forty two household workers who alleged abuse between 2000-2008 were identified by the GAO. Fear to report, confidentiality issues, lack of records, and the challenge of identifying cases indicate that the total number of cases is likely higher. A-3 visas are issued to those working for ambassadors or diplomats and G-5 visas are issued to those working for employees of international organizations.

Current US law grants foreign diplomats civil and criminal immunity. This policy prevents domestic workers from claiming their legal rights in court and, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “gives diplomats a free pass to mistreat domestic workers deliberately and without penalty”. These workers are frequently women from poor countries.

The report recommends that records on alleged abuse be maintained by the Secretary of State, that consular officers seek guidance before issuing A-3 or G-5 visas to those applying to work with diplomats that are suspected of abusing workers, and that compliance with the terms of A-3 or G-5 visas be spot-checked.


ACLU; Feministing 7/31/08; GAO; Human Rights Watch 2001

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