Spotlight on Migrants at Work

Updated 24 June 2021: From StatusNow4All signatory Migrants at Work: 1st July 2021 – drawing attention to those pulled into home-grown slavery … more information below

18 June 2021: The Problem: Regular ( Undocumented) migrant workers

Some of us migrant workers and British citizens from BAME backgrounds are being affected by immigration rules, and discriminatory employment practices because we are unable to obtain the documents required to confirm our legal right to work in the Uk.

Since  1997,   despite having the legal right to work, we have been refused employment, suspended from work without pay, or dismissed without due process.  This is because the Employer’s Checking Service (ECS) makes mistakes. Subsequently,  employers who are not immigration experts, and rely solely on this digital platform to confirm the immigration status of their employees,  wrongly assume that we working illegally.  Research commissioned by Mifriendly cities from Coventry University found that:

  •   Over 80% of employers in Coventry who responded to this survey told us they are ‘definitely’ or ‘somewhat so’ currently experiencing vacancies that are hard to fill. 
  • 65% of employers who responded reported not being able to fill their vacancies due to being unable to find candidates with the right job-specific skills and experience.
  • 34.3% also reported not being able to find candidates with the right generic skills (communication skills and the (perceived) ability to work as part of a team). 
  • Less than 5% of respondents currently employ refugees / former refugees. However, 34% reported not seeing any barriers to them employing refugees in the future.    

 Impacts:  employers

According to the study, almost a third of respondents (27%) had not considered employing refugees. This because almost all (96.1%) of respondents reported that they lacked confidence in employing migrants (including refugees) from outside the EU as they had not received training on the validity of documents which tell them who has the right to work. For almost two thirds (64.2%) of these respondents, lack of confidence acts as a deterrent to them employing refugees and non-EU migrants. Over half (52.2%) of respondents reported that they would like more information about who has the legal right to work.

Impacts: Migrant and BAME workers:

Some of us are victims of immigration status-related discrimination and labour exploitation.  As result,  since 1997,  we have been denied the labour rights and  human rights other workers enjoy. In a number of cases,  our salary is unlawfully withheld by our employers, and in other cases, we are unlawfully detained by the immigration services, or the police for alleged illegal working.  These practices have detrimental impacts on our mental well-being.

The root cause: 

Immigration law and employment law are intersecting to create and exacerbate vulnerability to labour exploitation, race discrimination, destitution and mental illnesses in the migrants and BAME  workers’ communities.

Our solution: 

We are migrant and BAME workers who have lived experience of the impact of Immigration law at work. We bring our expertise in employment law, immigration law, and human rights law to support our community because lived experience is the key to begin to understand and address immigration status-related modern slavery in our community. Our strategy to tackle immigration status-related exploitation is to reach out to our community to inform individuals about their employment rights so that we are able to identify the potential signs of labour exploitation.

  1. We aim to upskill employers so that they feel confident to employ us
  2. We aim to upskill frontline OISC migrant support organisations to be the first responders. 
  3. We aim to educate and inform our community within the communities where we live so that we can identify the signs of labour exploitation and discrimination, and seek support to challenge bad employment practices where we work. 
  4. We research the underlying roots and drivers of vulnerability to modern slavery( the factors or processes which increase the susceptibility of an individual, a community, systems to the impacts of hazards) UNISDR Terminology (2017)
  5. We aim to provide representation in the workplace to the victims.