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Four Corners

Time:2018-02-12 20:21Shoes websites Click:

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SARAH FERGUSON: Welcome to Four Corners.
Diplomats in their often-lavish compounds in Canberra enjoy a privileged status - wealth, political influence and the protection of diplomatic immunity which puts them beyond the reach of Australian courts.

A Four Corners investigation has found that protection has allowed some senior diplomats to exploit and mistreat their staff with impunity.

At least 20 domestic workers have escaped from embassies in Australia because of working conditions that have been likened to slavery.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: reports.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: It's afternoon in the embassy precinct in the nation's capital.

The scene is deceptive.

Behind the embassy walls, there are secrets.

Here in Canberra, some domestic workers are being treated like slaves.

DAVID HILLARD, LAWYER, CLAYTON UTZ: I think it's about what we don't see behind those closed embassy doors.

It's absolutely shocking, what's gone on.

The idea that there is slavery alive and well inside modern Australia is just really difficult to get your head around.

It's something that I think most of us would be completely amazed and disgusted to discover happens here in this country.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: In this former diplomatic residence that was home to Pakistan's High Commissioner, a man says he was kept like a slave.

SHAHID MAHMOOD: It looked beautiful from the outside, but what was happening inside was a very bad situation.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Where were you sleeping in the house?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: In the house, the floor that is at the lowest level, I would sleep at the floor which is below the ground floor.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: In the basement?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Basement, in the basement, yeah.

It wasn't good because it was an absolutely filthy sort of place; I mean it wasn't clean at all.

There was no TV, nor was there any air-conditioning, not even a fan.

DAVID HILLARD, LAWYER, CLAYTON UTZ: He lived downstairs where other household goods were being stored.

It was a very cramped space.

And that was his home for about 18 months.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Shahid Mahmood says he was made to work up to 18 hours a day.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: How many hours sleep would you get every night?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Four, four five.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Four or five hours sleep before you had to get up again and start working?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Yes.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Did you ever get a day off?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: No.

No weekend, no day off.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: How did that make you feel being treated like this?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Feels very bad, like jail.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Like, you were in a jail?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Yes.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Like a prisoner?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Yes.

Sometimes crying, you know in the basement, while sitting on the stairs, you know, crying.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Shahid grew up in a village in the Kashmir region on the Pakistani border with India.

In Pakistan he went to work as a driver for the woman who would become Pakistan's High Commissioner to Australia.

She made him an offer too good to refuse.

SHAHID MAHMOOD: And one day just like that, sitting in the car she had the conversation like, "Would you like to go to Australia? Since, I'm headed there, I would need a chef, a kitchenhand, a
helper.

If you are interested, give me your passport to make some arrangements for your visa."

So, I said alright.

DAVID HILLARD, LAWYER, CLAYTON UTZ: In order to get a visa to come to Australia, his employer, the High Commissioner, needed to organise a contract that she needed to show to the Australian
consulate in Islambad.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Shahid was offered a contract that said he would earn $625.00 a week.

But when the contract was vetted by the Australian High Commission in Pakistan, they said "The contractual and payment arrangements provided do not appear to meet the legal requirements for employment in that area of work in Australia."

A second contract offered Shahid more money in line with the Australian minimum wage.

DAVID HILLARD, LAWYER, CLAYTON UTZ: And under that contract, the terms were that he would be subject to Australian labour laws.

He'd have access to overtime, he'd have access to holiday pay, he'd be given annual leave.

Now, Shahid, didn't understand the contract that he signed.

But the contract that he signed was a complete sham.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Shahid says he was never even paid.

Instead, a fraction of the money he had been promised was sent to his family in Pakistan.

On average, about $100 a week, sent in lump sums every few months.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Did you ever receive any actual money yourself?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: No, over eighteen or nineteen months, I only received five dollars, you know, for Eid celebrations.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Five dollars? To celebrate Eid?

SHAHID MAHMOOD: Yes.

Just five dollars.

We would usually give that five dollars to some beggar, you know.

Five or ten dollars is what one usually gives away to beggars.

REPOTER: Lawyer David Hillard is working with Shahid to try to get him the money he is still owed.

DAVID HILLARD, LAWYER, CLAYTON UTZ: Shahid was in a particularly vulnerable situation because his employer, in his eyes, was the most powerful member of the Pakistani government in this country.

He was being employed by somebody who was a representative of his government.

A representative who he saw as being incredibly influential, incredibly well-connected, and incredibly powerful.

And he was put into a state of fear once he realised what was happening to him.

He did not feel that he was able to ever escape because of the consequences that may happen to him.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Shahid's employer was Naela Chohan, who is still Pakistan's High Commissioner for Australia.

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