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22 Jun 2023


UK: Lords Committee hears from migrant workers of exploitative living & working on farms staffed through seasonal work visas


"We weren't viewed as humans," Sybil Msezane told a House of Lords committee.

She said workers were addressed by numbers, rather than names, as if they were in prison, forced to work 18 hour days and live in overcrowded caravans.

If they complained to bosses they were threatened with deportation, the Lords horticultural committee was told.

The committee is investigating the treatment of migrant workers on British farms...

Emiliano Mellino, a journalist for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who has written a series of articles on the treatment of migrant workers, told the Lords committee some workers had been subjected to bullying and abuse.

He said many take out loans to cover the costs of coming to the UK, and they also had to pay rent of up to £80 a week for their accommodation, which meant they were reluctant to speak out for fear of losing their job...

When the current seasonal workers visa scheme was launched in 2019, it had a quota of just 2,500 places a year, with most coming from Russia and Ukraine.

It was expanded to 38,000 visas in 2022, following pressure from the farming industry, who had been forced leave crops unpicked...

The scheme is due to run until 2024, with debate raging in government over whether it should be expanded to keep food costs down and help tame inflation.

The government has authorised only a small number of recruitment companies, known as "scheme operators", to arrange seasonal worker visas...