Illustration by Thomas Pullin

How did we let modern slavery become part of our everyday lives?

Article in The Guardian
3 April, 2018

Labour exploitation, forced labour, unethical recruitment, indentured labour and slavery exist all around the world. They have never ceased to exist, despite the fantasies entertained by citizens of the first world: much of the latter’s wealth is founded upon this exploitation. They are creating hellish working and living conditions for tens of millions of workers, including millions of migrant workers. Since those workers are voiceless – for fear of retribution –, we collectively turn a blind eye on it. Lest inequality creates once again social unrest, political upheaval and fascist or communist revolution, a renewed union movement will be key in levelling the playing field and governments will have to favour and nurture unionisation again, as they did for industrial workers.

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  A decision to refuse care on the basis of a patient’s inability to pay is incredibly dangerous.’ Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA

As a doctor, I can see that denying NHS care to immigrants is inhumane

Article in The Guardian
14 March, 2018

Populism in action. Regardless of consequences? Not so sure: letting migrants suffer and die of neglect may be part of the plan. The liberal outrage will fuel the populist reaction. Moreover, due to the absence of “firewall”, the health service is transferring their personal information to the immigration enforcement authorities, acting as an auxiliary of the Home Office. We can anticipate the populist reaction: the lawbreakers brought it unto themselves; if they are not happy, they can return home.

“Government guidance makes it a statutory duty for the NHS to charge patients not deemed to be “ordinarily resident” in the UK. This means that patients with precarious immigration status are left with bills of thousands of pounds. Since October last year they can be denied care if they are unable to pay upfront, as Thompson was. If patients are unable to pay, the Department of Health effectively punishes them by handing their personal information to the Home Office, where their inability to pay for healthcare may mean their immigration applications are refused…

Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK decades ago, but whose right to remain does not show in Home Office records, are now being excluded from work, housing and welfare benefits, as well as healthcare, and even held in immigration prisons, as the government’s “hostile environment” for migrants deepens border control across all areas of life.

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  One man had been held for more than four and a half years in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre. Photograph: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Home Office keeping torture victims in detention, inspectors report

Article in The Guardian
14 March, 2018

Obsession with migration security, priority given to repression, privatisation of detention, scorn for medical advice, disregard for human dignity… The report is describing the treatment of people who have not committed any crime, who have simply failed to obtain an administrative status. Yet, some aspects of migration detention would be “out of place in a prison”.  And this is the third report in a row describing such failings: when will it be considered that oversight is of no effect? The diagnostic is crushing.

The Home Office is keeping torture victims in detention at Europe’s largest immigration removal centre despite accepting clear evidence of their vulnerability, prison inspectors say…

“Detainees, many identified as vulnerable, were not being adequately safeguarded. Some were held for unacceptably long periods. Mental health needs were often not met. Detainees were subject to some disproportionate security restrictions and living conditions were below decent standards. It is time for the Home Office and contractors to think again about how to ensure that more substantial progress is made by the time we return.

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  Support for migrants in 2015. Photograph: © Guy Corbishley/Alamy Live News

‘I felt a nausea of fury’ – how I faced the cruelty of Britain’s immigration system

Article in The Guardian
7 March, 2018

A powerful testimony on the deleterious effects of the populist anti-immigration narrative. The UK shows the way in how to foster a fractious society, that creates suspicion and fear, and breeds exclusion and resentment. It will take a generation to repair the damage to the social fabric. A clear example of how to shoot oneself in the foot!

“It is hard to describe what it feels like to confront the possibility of leaving a country in which you are settled. I had by then been living, working (in emerging markets private equity) and paying taxes in the UK for nine years and enjoyed all the natural extensions of that investment – a career, close friends, a deep attachment to the place, a whole life. It is almost as if the laws of nature change, like gravity disappears and all the things that root you to your existence lose their shape and float away. I remember thinking, “I can’t leave, I’ve just bought a sofa.” It was a ridiculous thought, but that secondhand sofa from the local flea market was the first item of furniture I had ever bought. Suddenly, it signified the folly of nesting in a country that had no intention of letting me make a home.”

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  This camp for migrant workers is in Boreano, located about 80 kilometres from Rignano. (Photo taken by Francesco Castelgrande in April 2016.)

‘Modern slavery’ for migrant tomato pickers in Italy

Article in France24
23 February, 2018

A very good report on the exploitation of migrant workers in the Italian agricultural sector.

“In southern Italy, millions of tons of tomatoes are produced each year. To cut costs, people who own the large farms in the area call on the cheapest workforce possible: migrant workers. These workers end up ensnared in a system akin to modern slavery: they live in makeshift camps where they are exploited by the intermediaries who liaise with the farmers. They are stuck doing gruelling, underpaid work – but which is often their only option.”

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