UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Irregular migrant workers in the UK : a story of marginalization Levene, Rachael


21 Chinese irregular migrant cockle pickers died in February 2004. It soon became clear that these workers had been exploited. They had been paid 11 pence an hour (approximately 30 cents CAD) and had been housed in squalid accommodation. After the tragedy took place I felt compelled to investigate the exploitation of irregular migrant workers in the UK's 'black economy.' Quickly it became clear that this disaster was simply another example of the UK's 'modern day slave-trade', in which irregular migrant workers fall prey to unscrupulous bosses in a wide range of low skilled industries. In this thesis I unveil how irregular migrant workers face practices that amount to 'modern slavery' in the UK's low skilled industries. I describe these various forms of exploitation in Chapter 2 and explain how they constitute 'modern slavery'. In documenting these different types of abuse, I have relied on secondary sources and have contacted certain individuals directly. In Chapter 3, I then consider the legal rights irregular migrant workers have against such exploitation under U K law. As I reveal however, legal rights are often ineffective for irregular migrant workers due to their immigration status. In Chapter 4, I show how forthcoming legislation, which was brought in following the cockle pickers' deaths, also fails to provide irregular migrant workers useful rights. Due to the inadequacy of rights protection at the domestic level, in Chapter 5 I assess whether international human rights law offers more effective protection. As I explain however, individuals in the U K are unable to enforce international human rights law. In light of these findings, in Chapter 6, I make recommendations on how to improve the rights of irregular migrant workers in the UK.

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