In common with all immigration lawyers, I am often approached by clients who wish to work legally in the UK but have been refused a visa. Whilst I can often suggest a solution, it seems that UK Home Office Contractors have been offering this service on a massive scale- and the work comes with accommodation (compulsory).
Campaign group Corporate Watch (CW) allege detention contractors exploit immigration detainees as a cheaper than minimum wage workforce in the detention and removal centres run on behalf of the Home Office.
The allegations arise from UK Home Office figures which reveal that in May 2014 alone detainees at seven centres (run by Serco, G4S, GEO and Mitie) did nearly 45,000 hours of work for an average of around £1 per hour (National Minimum Wage rates for adults is £5.13 or for workers 21 and over, £6.50 p/h).
It is suggested that this work is a means by which these organisations are satisfying some of their core contractual obligations to the Home Office (cleaning, cooking etc). CW researcher has stated “these companies are potentially saving millions of pounds by exploiting their captive migrant workforce on a grand scale”.
But aren’t there laws against that kind of exploitation?
Well, section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 creates an offence of holding another person in slavery or servitude or requiring them to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Section 71 says: A person (D) commits an offence if:
(i) D holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that D knows or ought to know that the person is so held, or
(ii) D requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that D knows or ought to know that the person is being required to perform such labour.
The references to holding a person in slavery or servitude etc are to be construed in accordance with Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention, but Article 4(3) of the ECHR sets out exceptions -“forced or compulsory labour” does not include any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention (e.g. for deportation or to prevent illegal entry to a country).
Now I know where to point the next client who wants to work legally in the UK without a visa.
(Corporate Watch describes its role as the investigation of “the social and environmental impacts of corporations and corporate power”).
See CW’s Tweet: http://www.corporatewatch.org/news/2014/aug/22/scale-captive-migrant-labour-revealed via @CorpWatchUK
Immigration Lawyer Jeremy Chipperfield, practising from the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, Chancery Lane, also writes at Immigration Barrister website iBarristersChambers.