A Vincentian woman living in St. Lucia who was asked to prostitute herself in England in exchange for a job after her first two jobs ended in disappointment is joining with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to caution people being enticed with babysitting jobs in England.
The 28-year-old woman, who spent EC$7,500 in England last December, said that when she arrived she was told that her wages would be 200 pounds per week, but her first two weeks’ pay would belong to her recruiters.
She did not complete two weeks on that job because of mistreatment at the hands of the family to which she was assigned to work as a babysitter.
Asked what advice she would give to other people being enticed by such jobs, Stacy said, “I don’t even think I want to give advice because when I came back and certain people know what happened to me and they know my situation, they said, ‘You did the best thing; nowhere sweeter than home.’
“Then there are some other people, they are talking behind my back now and it’s not people in St. Lucia, people from St. Vincent that know me, and they were like, ‘How she dotish so? Way she come back ya go do?’
“They don’t know the struggle, they don’t know what you went through, what’s happening but they believe like you should just stay over there and take the stress.”
The woman asked that her real name not be used in this article. We will refer to her as “Stacy”, a false name that she used along with her real family name during the one-month stay in England.
Stacy, who is north-eastern St. Vincent and has a child half her age, contacted iWitness News on Thursday after reading our report on Gonsalves’ caution to people taking up offers of babysitting jobs in England.
The prime minister said that some people who travel to England in these circumstances work illegally as babysitters at below minimum wage
“… then they get abused in one way or the other, things are difficult, they don’t have anybody — friends or family — up there to help them, they may overstay, they get deported, they get locked up, or sometimes they get pushed into things which are worse,” Gonsalves warned.
He further hinted that the situation could lead to England imposing visa requirements for Vincentian passport holders, who can now travel to the country visa-free for up to six months, though a work permit is required for persons seeking legal employment.
Stacy has been living in St. Lucia for the past four years with her boyfriend and was encouraged to take up a babysitting job in England by a cousin who had also taken the trip.
Stacy’s cousin sent her a number to contact a woman, who responded and instructed her to do a medical examination.
She sent the medical report back to the woman.
Hoping to live life in London
“I had a job. I gave up my job because the way my cousin talked to me about it, it was sounding very interesting. It was sounding like a great opportunity,” said Stacy who earned EC$1,200 a month as a sales representative in St. Lucia.
“I spoke to my boyfriend about it, he helped me and I went.”
She said that before she went to England, the lady at the agency contacted her and said that the family with whom she was going to live would call her. “They called me. They questioned me. They asked me my name, my age. Everything. I answered them,” she said, adding that the call was made one day before she flew from St. Lucia to England.
“The lady, the head of the job, when you have your ticket and everything done, she decides which family she puts you on to. So when you call her and tell her you have your ticket already, she would contact you, give you the family your number, they will call you on WhatsApp video, they will see your face and everything like that.”
She said it was an African family, a husband and wife, both of whom are doctors, and their 18-month-old baby girl.
Stacy paid for “everything” to make the trip to England, including her ticket and medical examination fees.
However, up to when she left St. Lucia, she was not told how much her salary would be.
Her cousin was getting 1,000 pounds (1 pound = approx. EC$3.66) a month for taking care of three children, a salary that Stacy did not consider that impressive. However, her cousin had told her that her pay would be based on the number of children she would have to babysit.
When Stacy got to England, the family to which she was assigned sent her a message with their full names and address, occupation, job requirement, that she would be paid 200 pounds (approx. EC$732) a week.
“And within that 200 pounds per week, my first two weeks’ pay did not belong to me. It belongs to the lady that giving you the job,” Stacy said.
She asked her recruiter why she was getting the first two weeks salary although she (Stacy) had funded her way to England.
“She say that is the rule of the job. Once you come on behalf of them, you have to pay the company.
“… I had to babysit the child, I had to wash the child’s clothes, wash the family clothes, clean the house, clean all the bathroom in the house — do how many house chores for the 200 pounds per week — put out garbage.”
She said the family lived in a four-bedroom home that had three bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen, located in Wolverhampton, a city in central England.
The family initially expected Stacy to cook for them.
“When I reached the way I see she cooking, I said, that is not my style of cooking. And then the thing she cooking, I doesn’t eat that because I doesn’t eat chicken, I doesn’t eat a lot of stuff. So I decided with her that you cook your own food and I would cook my own food for myself.”
“I did not even spend two weeks,” Stacy told iWitness News.
Around the third day on the job, the woman telephoned Stacy, telling her not to leave the child unattended and that she would speak to her when she got home.
“When she gets home, that’s when I going to know that she has cameras everywhere in the house. I was feeling a bit hungry and I left the child in her playpen and I went downstairs to prepare something for me to eat and she saw that and then she had a problem with that.
“I said to her, ‘OK. What should I do now?’ She said to me I had to wait until the child sleeping for me to eat, for me to bathe, for me to do everything I want to so. And then, I working 13 hours every single day. I working from 7 in the morning until 8 in the night, for only 200 pounds a week.”
Stacy told iWitness News that she decided that the job was not for her.
“But you see the fact I spent so much money and I reach here already, I would just try to bare bob with it and then my six months up, I would go back home.”
Stacy travelled to England, having booked a ticket that saw her arriving on Nov. 30 with a Dec. 26, 2021 departure date. She was working illegally in England, as she had no work permit, having told immigration authorities that she there on vacation.
The arrangement was for her to work for six months.
“Then after those things, I said, ‘I am not accustomed to these things and this job is like slavery.’”
She said one day her boss called from work asking her to put out a garbage bin that was to the back of the house.
“When I went, it was one of them big, big garbage bins and I couldn’t move it by myself. So I went back in the apartment and I did not put the garbage bin in the road.”
She said her boss normally comes home at 5:50 p.m. but arrived two hours earlier, saying, “‘I need to talk to you.’ She then said to me, ‘You have to leave.’ I said, ‘Why?’
“She said, ‘Because what we told you to do, you are not doing it.’”
Stacy said that her boss complained about her not putting out the garbage bin and did not listen to her explanation.
“She said I had to leave now, now, now. So then I had a friend up there and I contacted her and she gave me a rest-up.”
Working under fake name
The friend offered to help Stacy find another job.
“I said, ‘No problem.’ Because is not go I wanted to go to come back. I wanted to make back my money.”
Stacy told iWitness News that her second job was to take care of elderly people.
“And with this job again, it was a next problem. It’s like you have to be working under fake names and you have to be very, very careful… You cannot give out your real information, you cannot tell the people the truth about yourself,” Stacy said, adding that that is when she adopted the name “Stacy”.
“The family of the old person you are working with, you have to lie to them. And this company, again, was owned by a next set of Africans.
“I had to be careful because the old people, some of them have dementia and she would get up and she would harass me. Like, ‘What are you doing in my house? Get out! Get out! Who have you brought there?’
“And when I tell her, ‘Let’s go and bathe’, she would curse me and say, ‘Stop telling me about bathing. I will call the police on you.’
“One day, it got so scary that I said, ‘I will stop telling that lady about bathing.’”
That job was 700 pounds a week, paid fortnightly
Stacy said that she spent four days living-in on the job because she developed a rash, possibly because of the number of different people who had slept on the caregiver’s bed.
She said she went back to her apartment because she wanted to go to the pharmacy to get a cream for her skin, only to find that all her clothes were stolen.
“When I tell you all — all. Brand new clothes I just bought. I went up there for the winter. I was a bit distressed. I started crying. I did not know what to do. It was a next Vincy girl living in the same apartment with me and I only knew that girl for two days,” she said, adding that the occupant of another apartment had footage of the other Vincentian stealing her clothes.
Stacy said she decided not to call the police because she was working illegally in England.
Refused to ‘sell my body for a job’
She left the apartment and went to her cousin’s, where she got a number for another company recruiting babysitters.
“This time, it was a fella. That’s the third job. That’s to show you how much I did not want to give up. And he was a next Nigerian company.”
When Stacy called the Nigerian man, he told her she had to pay her 300 pounds before she got the job.
Stacy told the man that she did not have the money. “And I tried to explain my situation to him,” she said, but the man did not budge.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you let your cousin pay the money for you?’ I said, ‘My cousin don’t have any money at the time.’ He said, ‘Okay, you cannot get the job.’”
Stacy called the man again two days later as she did not want to spend so much money to travel to England and not recoup it.
“I called the fella again. I troubling him for the job. He said to me, I have to pay him; let him think about it. I said, ‘Why don’t you give me the job and I work and my first paycheque I will give you the 300 pounds from it?’
“He said, ‘No. No. No. Things not going like that.’ I said, Ok.’
“Christmas eve, I said, ‘Let me try again.’ I called back that man. I asked him again. This time, he said to me, ‘You know what? If you want that job, come and go out with me on Christmas Day and let’s have a good fun time and then I will give you the job from there.’
“And when he said that to me, I cursed him on the phone. I said, ‘Hell no. I not no prostitute to come up her in England and sell my body for a job. I prefer to go back home and do without that job.’
“And when he said that to me, that get me so angry, that get me so upset, like it give me more speed to run come back to St. Lucia. And I never called him back to ask him for no job again.”
Stacy was booked to return to St. Lucia on Dec. 26, so she took the flight back home.
Expecting new job in St. Lucia
Since returning to St. Lucia, Stacy has interviewed for a job and is hoping to receive a call anytime.
“To be honest, leaving to go to a next country is a very great experience,” said Stay, who had travelled to North America and other Caribbean countries before her England trip.
“But, to leave a country and go in a next man country and you getting that kind of treatment, it’s not easy at all. It’s really not easy. I wasn’t sleeping; I wasn’t eating; I was so depressed because of the way I was being treated.
“Sometimes, when the lady comes from work, she taking off her clothes and she dropping it. It can be in the sitting room; it can be in the kitchen. And when she dropped it, then she would call me and she would tell me, ‘Go and pick that up’ and I don’t have a choice. I have to pick it up. I have to.
“You never watched these African movies and you see the way they treat the housemaid? I will put myself in that position. That’s how I was.”
Stacy said he was “very happy to be back home because I have been living here (St. Lucia) almost four years now and I never get that kind of treatment. Never. Never. Never.”
She told iWitness News that she used to hear people say “foreign nah no bed of roses”.
“But I really didn’t catch the full meaning of it until I went in England and what I go through I see what they talking about.”
Stacy said she was reading the iWitness News story about Gonsalves cautioning people about going to England on babysitting jobs.
“And I said to myself. ‘God not sleeping.’ I say, ‘I so glad is the prime minister that come out and talk about it because we Vincentians we might go through it and we would come back home and try to say what we went through and other people would think, ‘She lying. Is because she don’t want us to go.’”
She said she had been open with the people who know she went to England.
“I say, ‘look, I have nothing to hide. I went, and I am not ashamed I came back. It is better I be home in a place I comfortable than I be out there taking this stress.”
Some people, however, are not sympathetic, hence her reason for not wanting her full name revealed in this article.
Cousin locked up in house by employers
She said that when she was reading the article her sister called her from North America.
“And she said, ‘Go on iWitness News and read what the prime minister saying. I said, ‘Sis, that is what I just finished read.’ She said to me, ‘I so glad be put it out because a lot of them bashing you and thinking that it’s that you did not want to work. But, is hear the prime minister has to hear something or he know something why he could come out and talk about it.’
“Because I am not the only one that went up there and faced all of that.”
Stacy said that her cousin is still in England.
“She went on the same programme and I am being honest with you. One time, the family had her – but if I say that, she would know is me that talk because she don’t want people to know.
“The family had her in the house locked up, would not let her out. They wanted to take her phone from her and she had to fight for the phone and call a next cousin of ours and they called the police and so that is how she get out of the house.”
She said that police arrested the man but when they contacted her cousin she did not want to press charges.
“She was a bit frighten because she know she don’t have work permit and she know she don’t have the right to come up there to work. So she said that is one of the reasons why she did not want to go to court. She said to me she not ready, what she going back home to do. I tell her, ‘Me and you is two different persons. I cannot take it, I am going back’,” Stacy said, adding that her cousin’s time in England would expire in April.