Over 200 migrant domestic workers in at least 18 countries have alleged trafficking and labor exploitation at the hands of diplomats and employees of international organizations, according to a global investigation published in August by the Philippines-based media network Rappler.
Rappler examined open-source documents from 1988 to 2021, which included court records, NGO case files, news reports, and legal journals. The investigation implicated 160 diplomats, many of whom have evaded prosecution because of diplomatic immunity.
Ben Vanpeperstraete, an international law expert at the Berlin-based legal non-profit European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), told DW that the findings were “not surprising.”
“There are likely many more incidents that went unreported,” Vanpeperstraete said.
Under the Vienna Convention, diplomats and employees of international organizations are afforded a level of diplomatic immunity, which protects them from civil and criminal suits.
Diplomatic immunity is necessary to maintain cordial international relations, but the Rappler investigation showed that domestic workers employed by diplomats protected by immunity can be left with little legal recourse in cases of trafficking and exploitation.
“Domestic work is already precarious work with levels of extremely excessive abuse that would not be acceptable in a normal employee-employer relationship. Being a migrant domestic worker employed by a diplomat adds yet another level of complexity,” Vanpeperstraete added.