LSI’s member FLEX’s latest report Assessment of the risks of human trafficking for forced labour on the UK Seasonal Workers Pilot, is based on research carried out over the past year with consultant Caroline Robinson and Fife Migrants Forum.
This report provides unique independent evidence of worker experiences on the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) in the UK, a temporary labour migration programme that seeks to respond to concerns about labour shortages in agriculture, particularly following the end of free movement. The report highlights the risk of human trafficking for forced labour for workers coming to work on Scottish farms. Scotland currently has a high need for migrant workers to fill roles in agriculture, particularly in the labour-intensive horticultural sector, however the risks of the SWP have to date been unknown. This research attempts to fill that gap and foreground the impact of the scheme on workers.
The report identifies a range of risks of forced labour in line with a range of ILO forced labour indicators, including deception about the nature of the work, degrading living conditions, excessive dependency on employers and lack of freedom to change employer. 62% of workers reported incurring debts to travel to the UK to work and being refused transfers to alternative employment, with 66% receiving threats of loss of work. The research also found that very few mechanisms exist for workers to voice their concerns, along with gaps in labour market enforcement capacity.
This research is particularly timely in raising awareness of the risks of the Seasonal Workers Pilot in light of the recent expansion of the scheme to 30,000 workers in 2021. The report outlines recommendations and proposes strategies that can be taken by the UK and Scottish governments to mitigate the risks of human trafficking for forced labour on the SWP and protect current and future workers.