UN Experts Call for Urgent Reform to Protect Migrant Workers in UK from Exploitation and Deception

“According to allegations received, migrants are deceived about working and living conditions and the nature of their agreements with employers in the agricultural or care sectors.


Devdiscourse News Desk | Geneva | Updated: 04-06-2024 12:28 IST | Created: 04-06-2024 12:28 IST
UN Experts Call for Urgent Reform to Protect Migrant Workers in UK from Exploitation and Deception
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UN experts* today expressed alarm at the systemic exposure of migrant workers in the UK to protection risks related to deception, exorbitant recruitment fees, debt bondage, undignified living conditions, and potential deportation.

“According to allegations received, migrants are deceived about working and living conditions and the nature of their agreements with employers in the agricultural or care sectors. This is unlawful and highlights the need for urgent reform of the current system governing labor migration, to ensure effective protection of the rights of migrant workers,” the experts said.

They were concerned about the shortcomings of the Seasonal Worker Scheme, which was put in place to cover labor shortages in the UK. Licensed recruitment companies, known as “scheme operators,” recruit migrants from many countries to work on farms or in poultry production. Some recruitment agents illegally charge more than £3,000 to secure employment in the UK, pushing the affected workers into debt bondage. Other migrants arrive in the country with a job promised in the agricultural or care sector, only to find that no work is available to them.

While the experts acknowledged the Government’s efforts in revoking the licenses of non-compliant employers in the care sector, they expressed deep concern about the lack of safeguards for workers who are left without a job if their employer’s license is withdrawn. In such circumstances, many are allegedly threatened with deportation, while some of the migrants may be victims of trafficking in persons and other forms of exploitation, requiring assistance, protection, and access to compensation.

“The Government needs to hold scheme operators accountable through effective supervision and audits, as well as regular labor inspections on farms, protecting against human rights abuse by business enterprises domiciled in its territory, in line with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Perpetrators of labor exploitation must be prosecuted, and access to justice and effective remedies must be guaranteed to victims. Currently, too many temporary migrant workers have been in a legal limbo for too long and risk becoming destitute,” the experts said.

They urged the UK to govern labor migration more effectively by adopting adequate policies and safeguards, preventing deception, stepping up efforts to identify, protect, and assist victims of exploitation and prevent trafficking for purposes of labor exploitation, and upholding the country’s international human rights obligations.

The experts previously engaged with the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Haygrove Limited, and Fruitful Jobs on the above issues of concern, and the Government and the two companies provided replies to the allegations raised.

 
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