Photo caption: Cora Espanto and her children escaped from their diplomat employer in the Netherlands in 2008. Image by Nwel Saturay.
The exploitation of domestic workers by diplomat employers is an open secret. Numerous news outlets have reported on how diplomats in the US and Europe have maltreated domestic workers under their employ by withholding wages or subjecting them to physical and verbal abuse—all with impunity.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), envoys enjoy diplomatic immunity and are exempt from criminal charges and investigation. Additionally, because domestic worker visas are tied to their employer, cases of abuse often go unreported. When they are reported, they are usually seen as singular and exceptional cases.
This multi-country, multimedia investigative series exposes the scale and magnitude of domestic worker abuse in diplomatic circles In addition to field reporting in Germany (Berlin), The Netherlands (Amsterdam), the United Kingdom (London), Switzerland (Geneva), and the Philippines, this report series uses digital sleuthing and open-source intelligence techniques to gather publicly available data (news reports and case records) to expose the scale of exploitation of household domestic staff.