Migrants' Rights Network

Detention centres accused of slavery over £1 pay

The Times reports on figures, revealed through a Freedom of Information request, that indicate immigration detainees have worked 2.24 million hours between November 2014 and April 2017, and been paid… £1 per hour worked.

As The Times notes, ‘comparing the figures with the minimum wage […] detainees have lost out on an estimated £12.7 million’.

Toufique Hossain, solicitor at Duncan Lewis, is quoted describing this situation as ‘slavery’. He explains: ‘They are working as cleaners, barbers, laundry workers, litter-pickers and food servers. This work ought to be done by workers paid at least the minimum wage. If this isn’t slavery, I don’t know what is’. 

This is not the first time that wages in immigration detention centres have been raised as an issue. As The Times reminds us, the Home Office justified the work as voluntary and key to detainees’ mental wellbeing. 

Yet this raises the question of the private companies that run detention centres (amongst which Serco and G4S) benefiting from unpaid or underpaid labour. As The Times writes, a 2016 review of welfare in detention evoked the need to re-evaluate wages for detainees, yet we have yet to hear from the internal review carried out by the Home Office (due to be released last year).  

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Fabien Cante

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