Labour pledges to investigate exploitation of migrant care workers

Labour has promised to investigate the exploitation of migrant workers in the UK social care sector if elected to government.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has said she would back calls by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) for a full investigation into the treatment of migrant workers who have been left trapped in the UK with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.

Her comments come after a Guardian investigation found that Indian nationals were paying thousands of pounds to immigration agents to secure health care worker visas to the UK. On arrival in the UK almost all were told that they could not be provided with full-time employment, and many are now stuck in the country, unable to earn enough to pay off their debts.

Some paid up to £20,000 to come to the UK to work in the social care sector, the investigation found.

Some Indian care workers paid thousands of pounds to middlemen for jobs that did not materialise (Getty Images)
Some Indian care workers paid thousands of pounds to middlemen for jobs that did not materialise (Getty Images)

Ms Cooper said the government “has turned a blind eye to widespread exploitation of migrant care workers, putting vulnerable people at risk and undermining our immigration system and standards”.

She added: “Stories of people being unfairly charged thousands of pounds by agencies and employers who are profiting from overseas recruitment are a total disgrace. There must be a full investigation into these reports to ensure standards are upheld, and exploitative employers are prosecuted.”

Ms Cooper said a Labour government would introduce a new enforcement body to oversee new employment rights.

The new enforcement body would look at how to stop migrant workers racking up debt to come to the UK. Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock told The Independent last week that it would look at exploitation and abuse around the seasonal worker visa scheme, which is used by the agricultural sector to bring over farm workers.

He said: “Exploitation in the visa system must be tackled and it’s vital that for both UK and for migrant workers that the system is properly managed, controlled, and fair. The Conservatives have failed to set up the single enforcement body they promised would crack down on exploitation.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said that the Home Office would “always take action against any sponsor found to be failing in their responsibilities to ensure workers are paid appropriately for the work they do”.