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APPEAL TO TRADE UNIONS AGAINST SLAVE LABOUR


 

ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION (TREATMENT OF CLAIMANTS ETC) ACT

New  section 10: making  support for asylum seekers conditional on performance of community work Why unions need to  make a statement denouncing this clause and refusing to work with such forced (slave) labour

 

I am writing to ask for the support of your union organisation in opposing a clause added at the last moment by the Home Secretary to the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act  This gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations providing for the continuation of the provision of accommodation for a failed asylum seeker to be conditional upon her or his performance of community services. Such “hard case support” is presently available under Section 4 of the 1999 Act in cases where a failed asylum seeker is unable to return home because of circumstances beyond his or her control – for instance because they are stateless or ill or the country of return is too dangerous. In future this help will be dependant on what has hitherto been a punishment reserved for convicted criminals – namely obligatory community service.

 

My position is that full benefits should be available to all irrespective of immigration status – and that asylum seekers should have the choice to work (it is ironic that all other asylum seekers are forbidden to work).  However I also agree in full with the criticism of the new clause made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the  House of Lords/House of Commons in its Fourteenth Report of Session 2003-04. In essence the criticism is one of slave labour. In particular the report condemns the clause as being in breach of Article 4(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights (prohibition of forced labour), of  Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment) and of Article 14 (no discrimination on grounds of nationality).

 

It gets worse. The new Clause has an expectation that local authorities will collude in the implementation of this forced labour scheme. It states that “A local authority or other person may undertake to manage or participate in arrangements for community activities”.  This is a reminder of the old Poor Laws where parishes would contract in forced labour from the work house.

 

This legalisation of slave labour – transforming into slaves one of the most vulnerable and abused sections of our communities – is quite clearly something the labour movement must oppose. It is simply the logical conclusion of the super-exploitation of migrants, immigrants and refugees – a super exploitation that resulted in the deaths at  Morecombe of the Chinese cockle pickers.

 

I would therefore ask your union organisation to write to both the local authority within your area and to the Home Secretary at the House of Commons, London SW1,  to object to the clause and to make this correspondence public.

 

July 2004

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