Tackling Forced Labour among Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

The proposed knowledge exchange project builds on the applicants' on-going Precarious Lives project, a collaboration between academics at the Universities of Leeds and Salford. This research has filled a significant gap in existing knowledge. Despite longstanding recognition of migrants' susceptibility to serious labour exploitation in the Global North and a growing evidence base for the UK, research into forced labour among refugees and (refused) asylum seekers has so far been limited. In response, Precarious Lives set out to identify and understand experiences of forced labour among this highly vulnerable group, principally in the Yorkshire and Humber region, and to engage participants in a discussion of how to tackle it, primarily through 30 in-depth narrative interviews with refugees and (refused) asylum seekers, as well as 20 interviews with front-line practitioners and public agencies.

The research has, for the first time, produced conclusive evidence of forced labour as well as other highly exploitative forms of unfree labour among migrants at different stages of the asylum system. The project has uncovered extremely low pay levels or withheld wages, very long hours, insecure and dangerous work. Work is often extracted through a complex web of power relations underpinned by instances of trafficking for domestic and sexual servitude, confinement, and threats/occurrences of physical violence and denunciation of immigration status to the authorities. The data show that international and national labour and human rights laws are not being upheld by UK employers and suggests that existing policy and legislation are currently unfit to adequately tackle these abuses.

To respond to these challenges, we have worked together with nine Partner organisations located in different positions along the asylum-labour interface to develop a project designed to produce the most effective way of influencing policy and practice from the research findings. We will work with our Partners as part of a Knowledge Exchange Platform on Forced Labour and Asylum to oversee a programme of collaborative activities aimed at promoting dialogue between social scientists and research users and generating useful outputs for the latter. The activities consist of an opening and closing Platform Meeting, three Stakeholder Dialogue Forums, five Practitioner Surgeries, three User Workshops, and on-going General Networking and processes of Developing and Disseminating Outputs.

Planned Impact

Maximising the potential for realistic impact for non-academic users and beneficiaries to tackle forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers is central to this knowledge exchange project. Engagement and communication strategies will be co-shaped with users through the involvement of nine Partner organisations and the programme of knowledge exchange activities (see also Pathways to Impact).

Engagement in the activities, and the wider circulation of co-produced outputs, will target prioritised user and beneficiary groups appropriately. Emerging national policy recommendations will be highly relevant to the work of national policy makers, including MPs and civil servants in national government departments, and lobbyists and campaigners seeking to influence them working in a range of human rights, social justice, trafficking, immigration and equalities civil society organisations. Policy and practice solutions identified through the knowledge exchange sequence of activities (see Workplan) will be of direct benefit and use to national, regional and local statutory and third sector stakeholders engaged in improving the integration and cohesion of communities, workers' rights, immigration and refugee services. These include: refugee and migrant and refugee service providers and community organisations, trade unions, legal representatives and funding bodies.

Effective communication and engagement will be ensured through:
1. The commitment, substantial expertise and networks of the nine Partner agencies offering cash and in-kind support that will embed the knowledge exchange dissemination and outputs in their work. The nine Partners work across refugee and migrant labour, worker rights, forced labour and modern slavery, and immigration and employment law and include the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Refugee Council and Anti-Slavery International.
2. A multi-stranded sequence of knowledge exchange activities that will engage users and beneficiaries in an ongoing process to co-produce collaborative strategies and outputs.
3. A dedicated project website that will be regularly updated with working documents, and the co-hosting of materials on key Partner organisation websites to enhance dissemination.
4. Dialogue Forums that will pull together academics, policymakers and practitioners to discuss findings, policy and practice implications, and effective, targeted outputs.
5. Direct engagement with users through Practitioner Surgeries and User Workshops to facilitate take-up of findings into practice and policy recommendations.
6. Strong dissemination through General Networking and established Partner networks to present findings and evolving outputs directly to national and regional stakeholders.
7. The track record of the research team in successfully communicating ideas from research on migrants and refugees to governmental bodies, civil society organisation and private companies using a range of media and dissemination techniques.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The aim of this Knowledge Exchange Opportunity (KEO) grant was to influence policy-makers, labour organisers and forced labour/trafficking organisations to recognise refugees and asylum seekers as a group susceptible to forced labour and to raise awareness among frontline providers of how to respond. This builds on the findings of our previous grant: Precarious lives: Asylum seekers and refugees' experiences of forced labour (RES-062-23-2895). In the course of this project we have developed direct knowledge-exchange partnerships with nine non-academic organisations: Anti-Slavery International, Refugee Council, Refugee Action, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Employability Forum, Migration Yorkshire, Trades Union Congress (Yorkshire & Humber), Henry Hyams Solicitors and Thompsons Solicitors. In addition to these partners, our project has impacted on a range of non-academic stakeholders including policy makers at national, regional and local levels, statutory and voluntary practitioners who work on migrants' rights issues and service providers delivering services to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We engaged these groups through five stakeholder workshops held in 2014 which attracted 180 participants from a range of migrant and refugee organisations, statutory providers, unions and employment rights networks, and anti-trafficking organisations; for example British Red Cross, Wai Yin Society, the Police, Unite, Target Housing, Praxis, UNHCR, IOM, ECPAT, Doctors of the World. The workshops formally launched our guide and awareness-raising posters and postcards. These resources are publically available on our website (2500+ views), and have been circulated to our Platform membership of over 300 representatives and mailed to 338 Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) nationwide, alongside an article CAB's 'Advisor' magazine (readership c. 10,000). The potential for national policy impact has grown considerably over the last year due to the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The research team have collaborated with a related ESRC project; the 'Forced Labour Monitoring Group' and many other practitioner organisations on initiatives and dialogues on forced labour. The research team were invited to speak at Parliament in March 2015. They addressed the 'All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Uncertainties' on the topic of 'Human Trafficking and Slavery in the UK', chaired by John Glen MP. They spoke alongside Kevin Hyland; the UK's first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The audience comprised MPs and Lords together with representatives from the National Crime Agency, the Home Office, and many NGOs and think-tanks. Innovative impact was enabled through a short film made from a composite research 'story' for the 2014 Unchosen film competition (an organisation raising awareness about human trafficking through film), assisting in raising national awareness of refugee and asylum seeker forced labour. Significant regional/local policy impact has been achieved through holding a Migration Roundtable on 'migration and exploitation' in March 2015 that facilitated dialogue between local politicians and unions, employers, migrant/organisations and university researchers with the aim to influence pre-election migration language and messages. Most critically, the sum of our activities in this project has created radically raised awareness of forced labour among asylum seekers and refugees in policy maker, practitioner and service provider spheres. This has increased the possibilities for user communities to be aware of, and to access support to exit, labour exploitation.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Advice for ICIBI Inspection on Illegal Working
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact 4 September 2018 - ICIBI Inspection on Illegal Working - stakeholder meeting to shape the inspection Conference call with Caroline Parkes, (lead inspector), Paul Sherratt (project manager) and David Rhys-Jones, inspector, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. Intervention covered: the intersection of insecure immigration status and labour exploitation, the deleterious effects of shock tactics used in raids by UK Border Force on identifying modern slavery/ forced labour, the effects of employer sanctions (fines for employing 'illegal' workers) on workers - passing on risk to undocumented workers by reducing wages to cover possible costs of fines, and not using appropriate clothing, etc. to avoid detection as a worker. Detailed overview of available literature provided, and an annotated bibliography from the Precarious Lives project directing them to specific chapters/ sections of articles of relevance. Feedback: "Thank you for your very informative talk this afternoon. It was useful in helping us shape the scope of our inspection."
 
Description Kirklees Multi Agency meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of Precarious Lives research findings at this meeting.

N/A
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Leeds City Council Cross-Council Migration group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of Precarious Lives research at this meeting.

Ongoing influence of practitioners and policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Leeds Migration Partnership 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion of Precarious Lives research at Leeds Migration Partnership meeting

Ongoing influence of policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013
 
Description Leeds Multi-Agency meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of Precarious Lives research findings at this meeting.

Ongoing influence of practitioners and policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dissemination of our findings and stimulation of discussion

Further discussion with interested stakeholders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation: Forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dissemination of our findings and stimulation of discussion

Further discussion with interested stakeholders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation: Professional Practice Seminar Series SOAS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion with academics and professional practitioners

Development of ideas/stimulation of thinking
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk at workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dissemination of our findings and stimulation of discussion

Further discussion with interested stakeholders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description The even more hostile environment: discomfort as a policy goal 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of Precarious Lives research material to over 100 conference delegates.

Ongoing development of research contacts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Trafficking for Labour Exploitation Migration Yorkshire workshop with FLEX 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of Precarious Lives research findings at this workshop.

Ongoing development of research network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013