UK, Stop Using Immigration Detainees as Cheap Labour!

  • By: Susan V
  • Target: UK Home Office

UK immigration detention centres have found a not so creative way to save on costs. They’re exploiting detainees in a way that’s reminiscent of slave labour - to save themselves millions of pounds.

Accounting figures from last May showed that private contractors who run these detention centers, such as Serco, GEO and G4S, paid detainees just over 45,000 pounds for 45,000 hours of work, saving themselves 235,000 pounds in minimum wages for one month alone.

While the Home Office claims it is helping the workers by allowing them to earn money during their detention, some of the workers disagree. A cleaner at the Harmondsworth centre says it’s hypocritical for the British government to prohibit him from working on the outside to support his family, while allowing him to work for about a pound an hour for the centre’s contractor GEO.

Like prison inmates, detainees don’t qualify for minimum wage, and yet they must pay for essential needs like toiletries.

Research by Corporate Watch says that these detention centres would shut down without what some would say is just shy of slave labor. It’s exploitation, plain and simple, and these workers deserve fair wages!

We, the undersigned, say these detainee workers should be paid fair wages.

It’s one thing to say they are not eligible for minimum wage and another to pay them nothing even close to minimum wage.

Corporate Watch’s Phil Miller sizes up this situation in a nutshell in saying that "These companies are potentially saving millions of pounds by exploiting their captive migrant workforce on a grand scale.”

CW’s research also disputes Serco’s statement made to the Guardian that centres don’t rely on this near slave labor for sustenance. Serco’s claim that not using the almost free detainee labor would have no effect on the operation of the centre appears quite disingenuous, given the fact that it has saved so much in cleaning and cooking wages. CW found that Serco, alone, made 106 million pounds in  pre-tax profit in 2013.

While it seems unethical for these private companies to exploit detainees with these extremely low wages, it is even worse for the Home Office and Her Majesty ‘s inspectorate of prisons to endorse the practice. According to the Guardian “On behalf of the firms, a Home Office spokesman said: 'The long-standing practice of offering paid work to detainees has been praised by Her Majesty's inspectorate of prisons as it helps to keep them occupied whilst their removal is being arranged.”

For the Home Office to insist that the work is voluntary is indeed hypocritical, especially when these detainees are barred from working at minimum wage and have families to support.

We request that the Home Office put a stop to this egregious exploitation of detainees.

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