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Migrant workers working in the farm

A new report published by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre reveals vulnerabilities faced by migrant workers in the agriculture and care sectors in the UK.

Dr Natalie Sedacca from Durham Law School collaborated with academics from the Universities of Leicester, Royal Holloway, Bristol, and York, as well as the NGOs Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC) and Kanlungan Filipino Consortium (Kanlungan) on this report.

Restrictive visa schemes increase exploitation risk

The report highlights how the UK's Seasonal Worker Visa (SWV) for agriculture and the Skilled Health & Care Worker Visa (H&CWV) schemes create a situation of ‘hyper-precarity’ for migrant workers.

Limited labour mobility, short visa durations, and the threat of becoming undocumented exacerbate the risk of exploitation and modern slavery practices.

The researchers uncovered widespread deception by intermediaries, including false promises about employment terms, working conditions, and visa duration.

Workers also reported illegal recruitment fees, wage deductions for travel and accommodation costs, and a lack of information about their contractual rights.

The research team found that migrant workers face significant hurdles in reporting concerns or exploitation due to fragmented and under-resourced labour inspection systems.

Fear of immigration enforcement action, language barriers, and unfamiliarity with the complaint process further discourage workers from seeking redress.

Recommendations for reform

Among the key recommendations, the report calls for amending visa schemes to allow for more employer mobility, enabling visa extensions for those seeking legal advice or redress.

The report also suggests establishing a firewall between labour inspectorates and immigration enforcement to create secure reporting pathways.

Find out more

  • Dr Natalie Sedacca is the Durham lead on this report. Dr Inga Thiemann of University of Leicester is the Primary investigator of the report.
  • Read the full report and summary.
  • The project was funded by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC), which in turn is funded and supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
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