Forced Labour and Immigration in the UK

February 2004 – November 2004
Overview Methods Partners Findings Outputs News & Media
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This exploratory report offers a new framework within which to discuss the problem of super-exploitation in the workplace and what is shared and distinct in the experiences of British and migrant workers. Compiled in the wake of the disaster in which 21 Chinese migrants died picking cockles off Morecambe Bay in February 2004, it examines the relation between immigration control and labour markets in four key sectors (agriculture, construction, care workers and contract cleaning), highlighting issues such as health and safety, accommodation and subcontracting.

In recent years, there have been many reports in the media of the extreme forms of exploitation that some migrant workers face in Britain. On the one hand, the migrants involved are depicted as ‘victims’ working in Dickensian conditions, while the employers and ubiquitous gangmasters are portrayed as being morally reprehensible and, more often than not, foreign. On the other hand, migrants are also frequently portrayed as benefiting from undeserved opportunities. A key finding is that future discussion must begin to separate the control of immigration and the protection of workers’ rights.

Principal Investigator

Bridget Anderson


Ben Rogaly (Sussex), Patience Mususa (Oxford)


International Labour Organisation