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15 Apr 2024

UK: NGO finds exploitative recruitment of migrant farmworkers, including high fee-charging and false promises, incl. through social media; incl. co responses & non-responses

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In the first of a series of reports, NGO Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) has published a report on recruitment-related risks associated with the UK Seasonal Worker Scheme, based on outreach, interviews and surveys of more than 400 workers. Surveys and interviews were carried out by Rosmini Centre Wisbech, Citizen Advice South Lincolnshire, and the Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC).

FLEX found most workers (768.8% women; 69.9% men) reported taking out a loan to cover the costs of coming to the UK, with significant variation between countries of origin; for example, 47.9% Ukrainian workers reported taking a loan, compared with 91.7% workers from Indonesia. Amounts charged to workers also varied by country with Romanian workers paying an average of £490 while Indonesian workers paid £3,547.

Most workers did receive accurate information about the nature of their job and accommodation, though one in four said they had received no information regarding the possibility of changing employers in the UK, which is not allowed under the scheme.

Only three in five workers reported receiving a contract in a language they understood on or before their work commenced; across nationalities this varied between 16.7% Belarussian workers and 87.3% workers from Kyryzstan. Practices between scheme operators - agencies sourcing and placing workers in employment - were mixed, with some workers seeing a sample contract before arriving into the UK, som signing the contract online prior to arrival, and others only at the farm during onboarding.

The report also contains a testimony from a worker who migrated after seeing ‘deceptive’ images of what life could be like for them in the country on social media, including on Instagram (part of Meta), TikTok and Telegram. The report emphasises the influence of ‘scammers’ on social media who charge workers illegal recruitment fees.

We want to see that this isn’t a lottery for workers — with safeguards embedded in the structure of the scheme
Lucila Granada, FLEX Chief Executive

Recommendations from FLEX include that:

  • Government data should be available on a timely basis;
  • Recruitment practices and illegal fee-charging be actively monitored;
  • The UK Government consider regulating countries operators can recruit from;
  • Information on labour rights and employment conditions be shared with workers in their country of origin, and in native languages;
  • Workers not be responsible for costs of their journey
  • Overseas labour providers be actively monitored to strengthen the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority licensing scheme

In April 2024, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Meta, TikTok and Telegram to respond to the report and to outline how they monitor and remove content containing false promises of employment conditions, or leading to workers being charged illegal recruitment fees, for jobs in the agricultural sector in the UK, including content impacting migrant workers from Central Asia. TikTok's responses can be read in full below. Telegram and Meta did not respond.


Meta (formerly Facebook)

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TikTok (part of ByteDance) Antwort anzeigen

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