INDICTMENT London Hearing 2018
This indictment is also available on PDF, please click here
The Defendant to this indictment is the British government (in its own right and as representative of the governments of the EU and of the global North).
The Defendant government, together with the governments of the EU and the global North and the international financial institutions, pursues trade, investment, financial, foreign relations, and development which uphold a system of global exploitation that destabilises governments, causes armed conflict, degrades the environment and impoverishes and immiserate workers and communities in the global South, thereby forcing millions to leave their homes to seek safety, security and livelihood elsewhere.
Together with the other governments and institutions referred to above, through policies of deregulation, privatisation, welfare state retrenchment and outsourcing of government functions, marketisation and flexibilisation, it has enabled the restructuring of work and labour relations in the global North, creating acute insecurity and precarity, depressing real wages and conditions of work for most workers.
At the same time, through its labour and migration policies, which permit freedom of movement for capital and for citizens of the global North while denying such freedoms to the citizens of the global South, it has allowed employers to take advantage of the vulnerability of migrants and refugees as they attempt to enter the labour market, and has created a migrant and refugee underclass of illegalised, super-exploited, deportable workers.
Many non-British workers are excluded from access to workplace rights, minimum wage and other protections because of their undocumented status. Women, who make up a high proportion of these workers, are put at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse in addition to other forms of exploitation, which also directly and indirectly affect children and young people.
- The Defendant government has abdicated its international law obligations to protect workers and ensure decent working conditions and fair pay. It has enabled the entrenchment of exploitative labour practices and oppressive labour conditions in both the public and the private sector by repeatedly refusing pay rises to public sector workers while allowing managers to take obscenely high salaries; refusing to adopt a genuine living wage; failing to enforce minimum wage and other labour protection vigorously; encouraging or condoning companies’ use of zero-hours contracts, manipulation of ‘self-employed’ status, agency working, undermining of the right to organise and other actions which deny rights and protections to workers and employees.
- Within an impoverished and insecure workforce, it has ensured that migrant and refugee workers often remain super-exploited, marginalised and deprived of rights by legal and operational measures including:
(i) Failure (in common with virtually the whole of the global North) to sign or ratify the UN Migrant Workers’ Convention;
(ii) Failure (unlike many other states in the Global North) to ratify the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention, and the removal of rights and security from domestic workers;
(iii) Legislation imposing employer sanctions for bosses employing undocumented workers, enforced by violent raids on, in particular, small ethnic minority employers, who can be fined up to £20,000 and even imprisoned for employing an undocumented migrant or refugee worker;
(iv) The creation of the criminal offence of illegal working, under the Immigration Act 2016, which allows for the confiscation of workers’ wages;
(v) The denial and/ or restriction of rights to work for asylum seekers;
(vi) Maintenance of a legal framework which excludes undocumented workers from protection against abuses including non-payment of wages, unfair dismissal and race and sex discrimination, which are particularly rife in the hospitality, leisure, service, agriculture and construction sectors;
(vii) Failure to provide sufficient resources for the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) to enforce decent conditions of work;
(viii) Failure to provide legal aid in employment-related cases, and the removal of public funding for advice and assistance in these cases;
(ix) Combining enforcement visits by GLAA with immigration enforcement;
(x) Removal of European Economic Area (EAA) nationals who are destitute and who cannot find work;
(xi) The exemption of immigration removal centres from minimum wage legislation, enabling multinational security companies to profit both from the detention contracts and from the cheap labour of detainees.
- Meanwhile, the Defendant’s policies with regard to immigration and asylum have fostered racism, Islamophobia and nativism, and have deliberately created a ‘hostile environment’ for non-citizens which involves (in addition to the criminalisation of work) enforced destitution, denial of rights to housing and essential medical treatment, indefinite detention and deportation. These policies violate international human rights obligations to protect rights to life, to dignity, to physical and psychological integrity, to respect for private and family life, to liberty, and to protection from forced labour and from inhuman and degrading treatment. This has been achieved through:
(i) Increasingly restrictive visa policies which limit legal rights to enter and stay in the UK for work (for non-EEA or third-country nationals) to a small and diminishing number of highly qualified or corporate employees, with extortionate fees for issue and renewal;
(ii) Immigration rules and Home Office policy which treat domestic workers as the property of their employers;
(iii) The provision of no-choice, often squalid asylum accommodation to asylum seekers, who are required to live on an impossibly small weekly allowance;
(iv) Legislation requiring private landlords and agents to check immigration status before renting out accommodation;
(v) Legislation and policy that denies most refused asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants, any benefits or support, as well as any except emergency NHS hospital care;
(vi) The entrenchment of racialised viewpoints about migrants in the control system to the point that people of colour resident for decades are exposed to the suspicion of having no lawful right to reside, denied essential services, and threatened with enforced removal;
(vii) The removal of legal aid for non-asylum immigration cases;
- The Defendant, by policies which make it impossible to live without working and simultaneously making work illegal, forces vulnerable people to accept conditions of super-exploitation and total insecurity as the price of remaining in the country, and enables private companies to profit from such super-exploitation.
- Additionally, while EU free movement law recognises the importance of family unity for EEA nationals who move in order to work, the Defendant’s family reunion rules for non-EEA nationals (whether they are admitted as workers or as refugees) are extremely restrictive and result in long-term separation of families.
- These policies also work to the detriment of the rights of children, who are exposed to risks of exploitation and abuse when they attempt to migrate in their own right, or to hardship and destitution as a consequence of policies which deny public funds support to family migrants.
- At the same time, the Defendant government, in its own right and as an EU member state, facilitates the making of vast profits by security corporations through contracts for the border security regime, the housing of asylum seekers and for the detention and deportation of migrants, while overlooking or condoning brutality, racism and other human rights violations, criminal offences, fraud and negligence, committed by their agents against migrants and refugees, in fact rewarding them through the continuing award of such contracts.