Migrant workers face exploitation due to UK’s employer sponsorship scheme: Report

London: With most work visas tied to sponsors, the UK’s post-Brexit Points Based Immigration System severely limits migrant workers’ abilities to change jobs, putting employers in a position of great power, which remains unchecked, according to a new report.

Thousands of migrant workers face risk of exploitation because of multiple failures in the Home Office’s employer sponsorship scheme, said the report titled, ‘Systematic Drivers of Migrant Worker Exploitation in the UK’ by Work Rights Centre.

The risk of exploitation is exacerbated by the issues ingrained in the UK’s labour enforcement system, the research said after drawing on 39 case studies with migrant workers, including those under the Health and Care Visa and Seasonal Worker Visa.

“Divided between numerous agencies with unclear remits, poorly resourced, and reliant on businesses to self-regulate, the labour enforcement system remains ill-equipped to identify, respond to, and prevent the exploitation of migrant workers,” the report said.

“From the perspective of migrant workers, sponsorship is akin to bonded labour. It hands employers the power to exploit migrants, knowing that it will be very hard for them to leave,” Dora-Olivia Vicol, chief executive of the Work Rights Centre, told the Guardian.

“We have seen many tragic cases where people come to accept exploitation. The work-sponsorship system needs urgent reform to prevent even more migrant workers being exploited,” she said.

Citing the case of an Indian nurse, the Guardian reported that she is currently stranded in the UK with her partner and young child after paying 20,000 pounds to an agent in her home country.

He promised to secure a UK work visa for her and find secure employment in the country, but upon her arrival, the sponsor employer told her there was no work for her.

To avoid being deported along with her family, the nurse now has to find another sponsor employer within 60 days.

She told the UK-based daily that “she cannot sleep at night” and feels that she has been “mentally harrassed”.

“I was given a dismissal letter because the employer said I was not talking to them in a good way,” she told the Guardian.

“I was simply asking when I could start work. The situation is so stressful and I feel completely hopeless and cheated. I know there are hundreds of people in the same situation.”

The report called on the government to end employer-sponsorship of visas, and give migrants the freedom to change employers, and institute a Single Enforcement Body, where labour exploitation can be reported securely.

It also urged the government to set up an independent Migrants’ Commissioner, tasked with drafting a Migrant Worker Welfare Strategy, to prevent migrant labour exploitation in the long term.

Indo-Asian News Service or IANS is a private Indian news agency. It was founded in 1986 by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the \"India Abroad News Service\" and later renamed. The service reports news, views and analysis from the subcontinent about the country, across a wide range of subjects.

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