Brexit plans put European workers at risk of Modern Slavery

European migrant workers on short-term visas post Brexit may face heightened risk of trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour. The UK government is moving to ensure labour shortages don’t occur after the country leaves the EU, as they currently rely heavily on European workers in a number of sectors, from farming and construction to hotel work and hospitality.

In a country where 15% of all low skilled workers are European migrants, the government is under pressure to ensure Brexit doesn’t affect the ability for business owners to fill these roles. Farmers have already expressed concern that they do not have enough workers for harvest and have had to leave fruits and vegetables to rot. Two schemes have been introduced to accomplish this, but labour rights experts warn that these ‘solutions’ are working in opposition to anti-modern slavery policy.

Caroline Robinson, director of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) stressed that upfront visa and travel costs under the 2 schemes may put temporary workers at risk of debt bondage and creating a "continuous churn of low waged workers with limited access to support or rights”.  

"These short-term, rapid solutions will do massive damage to the government's claim of being the world leader in tackling modern slavery," she said in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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Sonja DuncanComment