#WordsMatter and Debt Bondage
August was an important month which saw the anniversary of the Fall of Kabul and the end of South Asian Heritage Month. To mark these important milestones, we have been reflecting on the importance of language in the experiences of those seeking safety, particularly how colonialism and imperialist narratives have, and continue to shape, the lives of those crossing borders.
As part of our ongoing work around challenging the narrative, we released the latest instalment of our #WordsMatter campaign which analysed the use of the ‘hard-working’ narrative in debates around migration. Read on to check out our latest policy blog on the topic.
Exploitation and the employment rights of migrants are also a vital part of our work. That’s why we were keen to share Emily Dugan’s investigation in the Guardian which uncovered the debt bondage of Indonesian migrant workers. Keep scrolling to read our analysis of the story.
Policy Blog: Why the term ‘hard-working’ harms migrants… #WordsMatter
So often, we hear politicians and the media talk about workers needing more “graft”. This is a long-standing view that some do not ‘work hard’ and that’s why they remain in poverty. This includes migrants and racialised communities.
Stereotypes around race and class are used heavily in immigration debates: the idea that migrants are ‘lazy’, ‘scroungers’ or a drain on the State. Some migrant communities now also emphasise they are ‘hard-working’, wanting to distinguish themselves from others. But all this does is pit one group as more worthy against others.
We reject this idea.
In the news: Migrant workers in modern slavery
A new story in the Guardian by Emily Dugan has uncovered that Indonesian seasonal migrant workers are being saddled with thousands of pounds of debt. Workers are being forced into debt bondage and have been put on zero hour contracts. Many are charged fees by unlicensed brokers to secure work along with flights, accommodation and visa costs.
Debt bondage refers to when a person is forced or tricked to work in order to pay off a debt. It is a form of modern slavery. This is illegal under British employment law.
At the Migrants’ Rights Network, we’re concerned about the extent of migrant labour exploitation, debt bondage and escalation of UK migrant workers schemes. A key focus of our charity’s work is to ensure that all migrants know their rights and feel empowered to assert them. However, it is clear this is not the case.
We call on the UK Government and the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority to adhere to their obligations and investigate these widespread practices and ensure the protection of migrant workers.
Click here to read more of September’s newsletter
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