Homegrown slavery- A state-sponsored licence for trafficking?
Every year, the Home Office approves new skilled jobs on the shortage occupation list and grants visa sponsorship licences to thousands of employers. While the Home Secretary is blaming us – migrants - for allegedly gaming the modern slavery system, her department allows recruitment collaboration (employers, recruitment agencies and some immigration law firms) to traffic us, through so-called safe and legal migration routes, for slavery in various industries, including health care and farming. Immigration Rules allow UK employers to pay us lower salaries than our non-migrant colleagues. If we blow the whistle about our working conditions or health and safety issues, the Home Office withdraws our right to work and deports us. This is trafficking sponsored by the state through legal immigration routes. It is time to end state-sponsored Trafficking.
The Community integration Awards
"Judges were impressed by Migrants At Work's impact and achievements, especially with a very small budget. The organisation is filling a pressing gap in access to information and rights-based support, at a time when Trade Unions are facing a tremendous amount of pressure. The Community Integration Awards commends Migrants At Work's inclusive and dynamic response to Covid-19, adapting the project to respond to pressing needs on the ground. In the context of more migrants and BAME workers being driven into exploitation, working at the forefront of the pandemic and at great risk, this work becomes only more important."(Community Integration Awards judges,2021)
Human Trafficking Foundation's Anti-Slavey day Awards
5 slaves a day in the business slavery chain
Can you work and live in these conditions for over 20 years? WHY SHOULD WE?
REALLY CLOSE TO HOME! The fruits are more alive than we are.
REALLY, REALLY, REALLY CLOSE TO HOME
EATING GREEN IS GREAT AND HEALTHY, RIGHT?
But remember this, It takes 5 Slaves a day from the farms to your table.
The Community integration Awards
"Judges were impressed by Migrants At Work's impact and achievements, especially with a very small budget. The organisation is filling a pressing gap in access to information and rights-based support, at a time when Trade Unions are facing a tremendous amount of pressure. The Community Integration Awards commends Migrants At Work's inclusive and dynamic response to Covid-19, adapting the project to respond to pressing needs on the ground. In the context of more migrants and BAME workers being driven into exploitation, working at the forefront of the pandemic and at great risk, this work becomes only more important." (Community Integration Awards judges,2021)
The EU delegation to the UK
"MaW has been drawing our and the Network's attention to pertinent issues with regard to EU citizens and their family members. This was largely done in the context of the implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, but also beyond. We continue to look forward working with Migrants at Work both to map any systemic issues around the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement (applications, exercising of rights granted by the Withdrawal Agreement)."
(Daniel FLEISCHER-AMBRUS, European External Action Service, EU citizens' rights programme leader, 2021)
The Office of the Independent Anti- Modern slavery Commissioner
"[t]They have a sound analysis of how immigration policy and employment law
are intersecting to create and exacerbate vulnerability to slavery and
trafficking in the UK."
(Emily Kenway, Labour Market and Private Sector Lead, Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, 2018)
MaW's contributions to the EU delegation's EU citizen's rights monitoring network has added to other organisations' understanding of the issues around the Right to Work check - for instance, EU Embassies. The fact he's been raising this issue will have provided a lot of useful understanding to people who might not have been familiar with it previously... Their contribution to this network is very valuable for understanding what's happening on the ground. EU citizens come of many races and creeds, that can impact on treatment. The network needed to hear that, making it more nuanced. [MaW's contribution has had] a good impact for that discussion.From migrants employment perspective - whenever I talk to someone who has been discriminated against - I don't know where to send them. If I had an issue with [immigration related workplace discrimination/ right to work checks], he would be the person I'd talk to... They do good work.
(Christopher Benn, Seraphus Solicitors / EU Delegation's EU Citziens rights monitoring network, special advisor to the European Delegation in the UK, 2021)
IMMIGRATION LAW AT WORK
The Problem: Regular ( Undocumented) migrant workers
Some of us migrant workers and British citizens from BAME backgrounds are being affected by immigration rules, and discriminatory employment practices because we are unable to obtain the documents required to confirm our legal right to work in the Uk. Since 1997, despite having the legal right to work, we have been refused employment, suspended from work without pay, or dismissed without due process. This is because the Employer's Checking Service (ECS) makes mistakes. Subsequently, employers who are not immigration experts, and rely solely on this digital platform to confirm the immigration status of their employees, wrongly assume that we working illegally. Research commissioned by Mifriendly cities from Coventry University found that:
- Over 80% of employers in Coventry who responded to this survey told us they are 'definitely' or 'somewhat so' currently experiencing vacancies that are hard to fill.
- 65% of employers who responded reported not being able to fill their vacancies due to being unable to find candidates with the right job-specific skills and experience.
- 34.3% also reported not being able to find candidates with the right generic skills (communication skills and the (perceived) ability to work as part of a team).
- Less than 5% of respondents currently employ refugees / former refugees. However, 34% reported not seeing any barriers to them employing refugees in the future.
According to the study, almost a third of respondents (27%) had not considered employing refugees. This because almost all (96.1%) of respondents reported that they lacked confidence in employing migrants (including refugees) from outside the EU as they had not received training on the validity of documents which tell them who has the right to work. For almost two thirds (64.2%) of these respondents, lack of confidence acts as a deterrent to them employing refugees and non-EU migrants. Over half (52.2%) of respondents reported that they would like more information about who has the legal right to work.
Impacts: Migrant and BAME workers:
Some of us are victims of immigration status-related discrimination and labour exploitation. As result, since 1997, we have been denied the labour rights and human rights other workers enjoy. In a number of cases, our salary is unlawfully withheld by our employers, and in other cases, we are unlawfully detained by the immigration services, or the police for alleged illegal working. These practices have detrimental impacts on our mental well-being.
The root cause:
Immigration law and employment law are intersecting to create and exacerbate vulnerability to labour exploitation, race discrimination, destitution and mental illnesses in the migrants and BAME workers' communities.
We are migrant and BAME workers who have lived experience of the impact of Immigration law at work. We bring our expertise in employment law, immigration law, and human rights law to support our community because lived experience is the key to begin to understand and address immigration status-related modern slavery in our community. Our strategy to tackle immigration status-related exploitation is to reach out to our community to inform individuals about their employment rights so that we are able to identify the potential signs of labour exploitation.
- We aim to upskill employers so that they feel confident to employ us
- We aim to upskill frontline OISC migrant support organisations to be the first responders.
- We aim to educate and inform our community within the communities where we live so that we can identify the signs of labour exploitation and discrimination, and seek support to challenge bad employment practices where we work.
- We research the underlying roots and drivers of vulnerability to modern slavery( the factors or processes which increase the susceptibility of an individual, a community, systems to the impacts of hazards) UNISDR Terminology (2017)
- We aim to provide representation in the workplace to the victims.
Exploited-abused-excluded: Tackle labour exploitation is a threefold strategy
EU LEVEL: The Problem
- States responsibility for modern slavery:The role of the European Union
The EU agricultural policies support farmers and increase productivity whilst turning a blind eye to labour exploitation they help create. How the EU has become an accomplice for decades?
Are the EU member states in the right direction to find a solution for us?
The European Union has a wide range of policies covering modern slavery, CAP, migration....etc. However, because these legislations are elaborated in isolation from one another, they create and exacerbate vulnerability to labour exploitation in EU countries. We are trapped, as shown in the graph below because policymakers are working against each other. An intervention by National statutory agencies to rescue victims cannot eradicate labour exploitation; There must be greater collaboration between national statutory agencies, migrants-led local community organisations with lived experience in EU countries, and the commission, and a campaign of information in line with the ILO Protocal PO 29. We applaud the EU commission's recent initiative to appoint an 'Expert group on the views of migrants' to participate in the development and implementation of migration, asylum, and integration policies. As the Commission acknowledges, " Involving migrants, asylum applicants and refugees is essential to make the policies more effective and better tailored to needs on the ground."
The commission and member States have the responsibility to prevent labour exploitation. We welcome this initiative ,and encourage the UK government to replicate it.
Migrant workers with lived experience are in the best position to advise policymakers and statutory agencies. We should be consulted and involved. We recommend the first tasks of this expert group should be to develop an action to facilitate the implementation of the ILO Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 and identify the factors that determine our level of vulnerability and the extent of our capacity to resist, cope with and recover from it.
COUNTRY LEVEL : The problem
Member States responsibility for modern slavery:
The role of the UK immigration laws
When we talk about modern slavery, many root causes are being looked at, except the criminalisation of work and the implementation of right work checks, which are the two main reasons why migrant and British workers from BAME backgrounds, who have the legal right to work, are forced into labour exploitation. Many of us have been exploited since 1997 because immigration law creates vulnerability in labour law.
A solution at the national level
Gangmaster Labour Abuse Authority(GLAA)
The GLAA has the legal power we do not have. Equally, we have the cultural and community connections they do not have. As a migrant community organisation with lived experience of labour explanation, at Migrants At Work, we believe we have the moral duty to intervene to protect our own community, with the support from whoever wishes to eradicate this crime.
Do I have the right to work?
I have an Indefinite Leave to Remain stamp in my expired passport.
Section 3c Leave: My visa is expired,but i have renewed it before it expires.
I have 'Settled Status' (SS)
I have 'Pre-Settled Status' (PSS).
I have a British passport, but my ECS came back negative.
I am the spouse of an EU citizen with SS.
I am the partner of an EU citizen with PSS.
I have sent out my BRP to the Home Office,but my employer want it now.
Who are we working with
GLAA- Birmingham City University, Coventry University, United Nations Global Compact Uk, ATLEU, Citizen Advice Liverpool, Migrants' Right Network, Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, Human Trafficking Foundation, EU delgeation to the UK, Manchester University, Refugee Action...and many more