Status Now Network and the fight for antiracist workplaces

20 February 2023: Status Now Network and the fight for antiracist workplaces

Status Now Network joined the Stand Up to Racism and TUC’s national conference Fighting for Anti-Racist Workplaces held at SOAS, University of London, last February 4th. The conference highlighted the role of the trade union movement to combat racism in the workplace, the hostile environment that targets migrant workers and refugees, and the various community interventions to prevent the rise of the far-right movement across the UK.

Refugees and SNN campaigners Loraine Masiya Mponela and Rogelio Braga were invited to participate in the workshop session #Stop Rwanda #Refugees welcome -don’t let scapegoating divide us , where Braga was one of the speakers. He highlighted that the plight of undocumented migrant workers should also be at the agenda of the British union movement. Undocumented migrants with their precarious migration status are subjected to exploitation, racism, and unfair labour practice with limited protection and support from institutions.

Below is Braga’s speech in the Conference.

“More than 140 people’s organisations, charities, trade unions, and various communities signed our call for the regularisation of all undocumented migrants and those in the system living in the UK. 

There are an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million people living in the UK in a precarious immigration status. Majority fell from the system because of the hostile environment standing since Theresa May was the Home Office secretary in 2012.

We are calling for STATUS NOW for all people who have been made undocumented by the UK’s immigration system, who are stuck in the asylum system that was intrinsically designed to fail, who are waiting years for decisions on their applications and their lives are in limbo, who are separated from love ones across borders, who have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ and are cut off from essential services.

Our call for status now has started in March 2020, at the onset of the global pandemic. We witnessed during the nationwide lockdown how migrants with precarious migration status and their children were thrown into destitution. We witnessed how people just die inside their flats because they were afraid to seek help. We campaigned together with our partners and won that vaccination should be extended to undocumented migrants. We all witnessed the disproportionate deaths among the BAME communities. We witnessed how a highly skilled engineer from their home country was disqualified here in Britain because the mere presence of an undocumented migrant worker in the workplace has been rendered a crime by the hostile environment. Personally, I witnessed how an undocumented migrant worked for £5/hour in a chicken shop because he was afraid of three things: to die in destitution, to be removed from the UK, and to seek legal help as an exploited worker. 

Undocumented migrant workers are workers. It is still labour power, no matter what border control made us believe what it was. Solidarity should go beyond borders. Should go beyond migration status. I have so many questions but it will always boil down to this: how can we establish a concrete employee-employer relationship to extend worker’s protection if a worker is rendered criminal because of a precarious migration status by the hostile environment? The answer is clear: regularisation of undocumented migrants and those in process.

Since 2020, Status Now has engaged government officials and politicians, we even wrote a letter to the former Prime Minister in 2020. The Government knows the most rational solution; the politicians know the most reasonable and compassionate interventions. But they chose the irrational, that thing that could divide our communities further: racism. Brown and black migrant bodies are the sites of border violence in British society. I don’t want to elaborate further but we all know that border policing has been extended to the civilians by the hostile environment: your landlords, your university admission officers, your bank tellers are checking your migration status.

Status Now condemns the continued political and physical attacks on refugees, asylum seekers and others without their status in the UK. We acknowledge that many people, even with the right to work, are often in precarious situations due to their immigration status. We reaffirm the right of all workers to employment which is safe and secure and to have access to justice against labour exploitation in workplaces. We believe that migrants who are undocumented and working in the UK have the right to join trade unions and be protected from exploitation and modern slavery. Our call, made by a number of migrant bodies, anti-racist, poverty eradication groups and others, that all undocumented migrants and people with insecure immigration status residing in the UK should be granted indefinite leave to remain.

Racism will always be irrational. Regularisation of all undocumented migrants and those in the process and the end of the hostile environment are the most reasonable ways to move forward—because these would lead us to social justice, to a better British society that is fair, just, and compassionate.

Status Now Network will join the national Resist Racism protest organised by Stand Up to Racism, Trade Unions Congress, Unite Against Fascism, and Love Music Hate Racism that will be held in London, Cardiff, and Glasgow on the 18th of March.