Thamesmead woman made slavery claims 'to stay in UK'

A woman accused her employer of working her like a slave in a bid to avoid being made to return to Tanzania, Southwark Crown Court has heard.

Methodia Mathias, 21, made the allegations days before she was due to leave for Africa, the jury was told.

She also claimed Rebecca Balira, 45, of Waterside Close, Thamesmead, south-east London, had injured her by cutting her bra straps during a row.

Ms Balira denies trafficking, holding another in servitude and assault.

The court was told Ms Mathias, who lived at Ms Balira's flat while she worked for her, complained to a charity after a row over some missing money, last September.

'No internet access'

During the row Ms Mathias claims Ms Balira, a HIV expert, injured her when she cut her bra straps with a pair of scissors.

But the defendant claims she only pulled on the bra, which snapped, and had not used scissors.

Ms Mathias, who had been in the UK for seven months, made the allegations days before she was due to leave for Africa and four days before she moved out of Ms Balira's flat.

Her friend, Beatrice Kosgei, got her in touch with Kalayaan, a charity which represents migrant domestic workers, which then filed a police complaint, the court heard.

Defence counsel Tanoo Mylvaganam told the court she believed Ms Kosgei had talked to Ms Mathias about the charity "because she was trying to help you to stay in the UK".

"Not because of anything terrible happening to you, but to find a way that you would get to stay in the UK," she claimed.

She said Ms Balira had paid for Ms Mathias to re-sit school exams, but the alleged victim said her employer stopped her from studying and she was not allowed to access the internet.

"At no stage were you ever stopped from using the internet for your studies or socially," the lawyer said.

Ms Balira has also denied taking her employee's passport.

Ms Mylvaganam said: "You've made up this story about your passport to make it seem as if you were in some way Rebecca's prisoner. That's what you've done."

To which Ms Mathias replied: "No."

The case continues.

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