European Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings

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Devil is in the Detail: Lessons to be Drawn from the UK's Recent Exercise in Regularising Undocumented Workers

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Devil is in the Detail: Lessons to be Drawn from the UK's Recent Exercise in Regularising Undocumented Workers
Bridget Anderson, University of Warwick
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Document type(s)
Undocumented migrants; Undocumented labour; Human rights approach; Labour exploitation; Economic migration, Irregular migration
Analysis of the UK regularisation programme which ran from 1988 to 1999: Despite the efforts of migrant organizations to mobilize support for this regularisation programme, very low levels of workers ended up applying under it due to numerous obstacles in the application process. According Anderson, who has done the only known analysis of the programme, many domestic workers had problems producing valid passports. Many had had theirs confiscated by their employers, or had let them expire and could not meet their embassy's documentation requirements to obtain new ones. Of 195 workers surveyed by Kalyaan, 69 percent had had their passports taken from them by their employers. Other workers faced difficulties proving their current employment as domestic employees, mostly because their employers were reticent to verify their status. Further problems with meeting the requirements included the condition that workers show proof of being able to support themselves, and with the provision that one must demonstrate entry as a domestic worker. Although the government eventually agreed that registration with the migrant organization Kalayaan would pass as proof, many workers who may have potentially been eligible for the programme were excluded from it. Beyond the issue of exclusion was the issue of promotion of the programme. According to Anderson, the UK government was reticent to promote the programme through the media and other channels because it was afraid of a public backlash. Since many domestic workers work in conditions of isolation, there was little chance to widely publicize it. Ultimately, it appears that the programme was very costly in terms of time, money and emotional investment for all those involved. For such a small number of workers to have benefited from such a effort strongly suggests the need for institutional and policy reform.
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