Detained Asylum Seekers in "Slave Labor" Scheme

Forced LaborLaw & PolicyRehabilitation & Liberation

An American private prison company, GEO group, is paying asylum seekers detained in Scotland a mere £1 an hour in wages for working at a detention center. GEO runs the Dungavel immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire, where 249 men and women are being detained while the Home Office decides their asylum applications.

Sixty-four of the detainees are currently working up to thirty hours a week at the prison, doing jobs including cleaning, trash removal, laundry, food service, and others that are vital to the facility’s upkeep. Current calculations estimate that if the prison had paid them the minimum wage, it would have had to pay them £727,607 more.

The Daily Record reports that GEO Group defends its practice, explaining that detainees do not have to pay to live in the prison:

GEO defended the scheme, which is endorsed by the Home Office, telling the Daily Record that “Detainees do not have to pay for their living costs, as do people earning minimum wage in the community.”

The company added: “We usually have a waiting list of detainees wanting to take work opportunities, which shows that the scheme is popular with them.”

Lawyer Toufique Hossain, who is representing some of the asylum seekers in their legal challenge, says his clients have no real choice in this scenario. “Men and women deprived of their liberty, in a position of powerlessness, are forced to carry out unedifying jobs for next to nothing by the circumstances which have been imposed on them. If this isn’t slavery, I don’t know what is,” he said.

The Home Office responded by saying the labor scheme does not constitute forced labor: “The opportunity for detainees to engage in this scheme is entirely voluntary and provides constructive and purposeful activity. Paid activities is not a substitute for the work of trained staff.”

GEO Group is currently embroiled in legal battles in the United States as well, where the attorney general in Washington state is suing GEO for paying immigration detainees $1 in wages, instead of the $11 a day minimum wage.

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whiskymikePeteMaddogManchester CatGrindl Dockery Recent comment authors
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This is in breech of the law.
If they work they should be paid the national UK minimum wage


This is an almost precise model in operation within UK Immigration removal centres.


This is an almost exact copy of the system existing within UK Immigration Detention Centres – slave labour?


Disgusting if this is not slavery i don’t know what is it doesn’t matter tat they are not paying rent they should get minimum wage and these people is allowed to get away with this because nobody really cares.

Manchester Cat
Manchester Cat

If “Paid activities is not a substitute for the work of trained staff” then who would otherwise do the tasks that detainees do for £1/ hour? Anyone else doing those essential jobs would have to be paid at least minimum wage. It’s true that detainees aren’t paying for living costs, but they aren’t free to leave the centre and don’t get better accommodation than detainees who don’t work. They can’t spend the money they earn on whatever they want as they can’t go out.