Campaigners are warning the the government’s plan to recruit thousands of temporary migrant workers from outside of the EU could put workers at real risk of abuse.
NGO Focus on Labor Exploitation (Flex) said that the current plan to bring in 5,000 non-EU workers on six-month visas to work on British farms over the next two years needs safeguards to protect workers.
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The problem, Flex points out, is that these seasonal workers will have their visas tied to their employer, meaning their bosses could threaten to fire those that complain about labor abuses. Furthermore, workers that try to escape mistreatment could face deportation.
The Independent reports:
Flex also warned that migrant workers were at risk of being scammed into paying foreign-based recruiters extortionate fees, which typically lead to heavy debts and can increase the hold an employer has over the worker.
It follows warnings from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on Tuesday that the proposed scheme offered “considerable control” to employers, thereby posing a risk of abuse.
“Workers with visas tied to a single employer are unable to defend themselves if they are paid less than promised or if they are expected to work longer hours and in worse conditions than initially agreed,” said Flex director Caroline Robinson.
“If the government is going to increase risk to workers through a temporary scheme, then they must heed the MAC’s warnings and ensure there are enhanced protection measures in place.”
“Otherwise there is a real danger that we could see a sharp rise in exploitation on British farms next year.”
Flex also insisted that recruitment costs be covered by employers, adding that oversight was needed for overseas recruitment agencies.
In response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommendations, a Home Office spokesman said, “After we leave the EU, we will take back control of our borders and put in place an immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK.”
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