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22 Oct 2023

By Emiliano Mellino and Matthew Chapman, The Independent (UK)

Exposed: Secret report on UK modern slavery the Home Office didn’t want you to see

British farmers have been accused of modern slavery following allegations of the widespread exploitation of seasonal workers – which the Home Office tried to prevent from being made public.

An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and The Independent has uncovered evidence suggesting that workers who had travelled thousands of miles to fill gaps in the UK’s agriculture workforce were publicly humiliated, not paid for all the hours they worked, and forced to live in substandard conditions.

The Home Office gathered the evidence in secret reports in 2021 and 2022, which it tried to prevent from being made public and were only released after a five-month battle.

The alleged mistreatment of migrants on seasonal workers’ visas is so stark that the government could be in breach of its obligations over the prevention of modern slavery, it has been claimed…

A senior Conservative who sits on the all-party parliamentary group on modern slavery and trafficking said the findings showed modern slavery was “everywhere” and the Home Office must take action when abuse is identified…

…the agricultural seasonal worker visa relies on six licensed recruiters, who often decide which farms people will work in and whether they can be transferred to other farms if they face problems or if work dries up…