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‘Hostile’ UK Immigration Policy and Asylum Seekers’ Susceptibility to Forced Labour

Part of the Transnational Crime, Crime Control and Security book series (TCCCS)

Abstract

This chapter discusses how recent changes in UK immigration policy to create an intentionally ‘hostile environment’ for irregular migrants relate to susceptibility to forced labour. The key changes in the Immigration Act 2014 and Immigration Act 2016 target spaces of everyday life by restricting access to housing, healthcare services, banking and legal representation, and increasing penalties for unauthorized working. Drawing on our research on experiences of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers, we highlight how such policies could operate to increase labour exploitation among people seeking asylum and other irregular migrants. This outcome is quite contradictory with government claims that it wishes to tackle ‘modern slavery’ in the UK through the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Forced labour as a term and concept is predominantly shaped by the ILO. ILO Convention No. 29 defines forced labour as all work or service that is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily. This definition is now accompanied by associated ‘indicator’ instruments. In 2005, the ILO detailed six indicators of forced labour: threats of actual physical or sexual violence, restriction of movement of the worker, bondage where the worker works to pay off debt, withholding wages or refusing to pay the worker, retention of identity documents and threat of denunciation to the authorities. More recently (ILO 2012), this framework has been expanded to 11 indicators by adding isolation, abuse of vulnerability, abusive working and living conditions, excessive overtime and deception.

  2. 2.

    There has been a growth in the detention and deportation regime in the UK (Bloch and Schuster 2005); the term deportability has come to mean not only the actual risk of deportation, but also its constitution as a lived experience of state enforcement of border controls (De Genova 2002).

  3. 3.

    Such a regressive step is brought into sharp focus when considering the high rate of success in appeals—nearly 50 per cent of managed migration and entry clearance appeals were successful in 2012–13 and 30 per cent of appeals against deportation from the UK were successful (MRN 2013), indicating that the initial decision-making of the Home Office is often poor.

  4. 4.

    Paradoxically, in introducing these recent legislative proposals, the government may also be placing a greater burden on the asylum system justification for their state has sought to restrict for many years now. This is because, although a significant proportion of migrants in detention have never claimed asylum, this may become the only potential regularization route for third-country nationals already in the UK.

  5. 5.

    Alex was talking in 2011. The civil penalty for employing an ‘illegal worker’ is now up to £20,000, with the threat of a prison sentence of up to two years.

  6. 6.

    See https://community.lebara.com/thread/1296#.VV284JbSNeU.twitter.

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We would like to thank the editors of this collection for their helpful comments which strengthened the chapter.

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Lewis, H., Waite, L., Hodkinson, S. (2017). ‘Hostile’ UK Immigration Policy and Asylum Seekers’ Susceptibility to Forced Labour. In: Vecchio, F., Gerard, A. (eds) Entrapping Asylum Seekers. Transnational Crime, Crime Control and Security. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58739-8_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58739-8_8

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