International Migrants Day 2023: London campaigners issue a call for action from trade unions

StatusNow4All: London-based supporters of Status Now 4 All gathered at an event to mark International Migrants Day on 18th December.

The event was hosted by Unite the Union and took place at its headquarters office in central London.  The event combined a social gathering (excellent food provided by the migrant domestic worker supporter organisation, Waling Waling), with the opportunity to review work done in the past year and expectations for campaigning work in 2024. 

Status Now 4 All’s co-chair, Mariam Yusuf, was able to join the event by video link.  She said that International Migrants Day gave people the opportunity celebrate the advances made in securing rights for migrant and refugee people, and also to set down the fact respect was due to them because, first and foremost, “We are also human beings whose basic human, social and economic rights ought to be honoured by the authorities of the countries in which we live.”

She set the theme for the evening: the need to strengthen the bonds between migrant and refugee solidarity organisations and the trade union movement.

Referring to the work done by the campaigns of the migrant domestic worker support groups, she said that they had brought the exploitation and the risk of abusive treatment to the attention of the wider public. 

“What we are now learning is that everything they have shown to be true about so-called managed migration also holds true for migrant workers in the food and agriculture industries, in hospitality, and, to a massive and growing extent, in social care and health work”, she explained.

This is Mariam Yusuf’s speech:

Speaking for Unite, Siobhan Endean, the union’s director of equalities and education, set out work done to make the resources of her union available to vulnerable migrant workers as they campaigned for rights.  The formation of a Unite  domestic worker branch was helping forge a model on what could be done to advance this cause.

Aria Danaparamita of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the oldest campaigning migrant rights group in Britain, described its ‘Work it Out’ campaign.  This has set out a five point set of demands in support of the rights of migrant workers, including the calls for the right to work for everyone, regardless of residence papers, and the repeal of the criminal offence of ‘illegal working’.  

Speaking for the Right to Remain project, Leah Cowan spoke of the danger of an increase in the number of workplace raids during the course of the next year as a floundering immigration control regime was leaving more people exposed to the accusation of ‘illegal working’.  A trade union response to this threat will be urgently needed during the course of 2024.

The voices of direct experience of UK immigration controls was heard during the course of the evening, with the strong contingent of domestic workers giving accounts of their experience.  Angie Garcia, president of Waling Waling, and Wendy Caballero of Voice of Domestic Workers, were united in their demand for a restoration of the domestic workers visa which they had won from the government in 1998 but which was rescinded in 2012.  The effect of this had been to deprive people working in private households of a degree of security from abusive employment conditions and to expose them to a higher risk of exploitation.

Ideas for the direction that work between migrant campaigners and trade unions were put forward by participants.  One of these was a call for a trade union commission of inquiry into the risk of migrant exploitation in the UK which would call for evidence from across the employment field and help generate a stronger response from civil society and significant reform of government immigration policies.

If you are an active trade union member who would like to become more involved in support for the rights of migrant workers please contact Status Now 4 All at