Imprisoned and exploited

The immigration detainees who work for next to nothing.

A report in the Guardian in 2 January highlights the links between wage exploitation of undocumented workers and the state. The report by Karen McVeigh shows how detainees at the privately run Yarl’s Wood detention centre are paid as little as 50p per hour to perform menial tasks.

Serco, the detention centre’s operators reported pre-tax profits of £115.6m for the half year to June 2010. The company has a vast array of commercial interests aside from asylum detention, including defence, transport, and education (it has a 10 year contract with Bradford City Council to operate the local education authority).

Immigration legislation already allows government contractors to exploit their prisoners by exempting them from the national minimum wage. The UKBA’s guidance to contractors recommends a minimum wage of a little as £1 per hour for routine work and £1.25 for ‘special projects’, such as painting their cells.

Apparently this is too much for Serco who, according to the report, pay detainee Gloria Sestus a flat rate of £1 per day for the cleaning of the dining room twice daily. A task that she says frequently takes more than an hour each time.

Sestus, interviewed by McVeigh said “It’s really humiliating. It is like slavery in a modernised form. It doesn’t allow you to buy much, just a £5 phone card for a week’s work and maybe some noodles from the shop.”

Read the full article Yarl’s Wood detainees ‘paid 50p an hour’ on the Guardian online.

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