Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:21 pm on 12th February 2019.

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Caroline Robinson:

At Focus on Labour Exploitation, we have been looking for some time at the risks that immigration control measures, in particular, pose for modern slavery. Obviously, with this Bill—as with all measures regarding Brexit—we have a new risk that a much greater proportion of workers could be undocumented if they do not register under the EU settlement scheme, or because of the confusion that Brexit provides.

We think that there are particular risks arising from measures set out in the immigration White Paper, namely the temporary and migrant worker programmes and the short-term visas discussed in that paper. Our particular concerns are about barriers to the integration of the workers, which could mean that they have limited access to their labour rights. That puts workers at real risk of not understanding their rights in the UK labour market, and at risk of exploitation. There is also the potential for things like debt bondage: if recruitment measures are taken overseas over which we do not have jurisdiction, and workers have to pay high fees in order to come to the UK—whether recruitment fees or just for work permits and travel—that could leave them open to a real risk of debt bondage.