Romanian citizens in the UK are being victims of modern slavery, a group campaigning for migrants rights has warned.
Migrants At Work said the government must put a stop to UK migration law and labour law being used to create homegrown slavery.
It comes as the group was allegedly informed by a Romanian community leader that Romanian citizens who applied to keep their rights in the UK after Brexit but have not yet heard back from the Home Office are denied permanent work contracts.
‘Unlawful and discriminatory practices’
“Romanian nationals who have their EU Settled Status Certificate of Application work only on zero-hours contracts, and employers withhold their pay until their EUSS application is determined,” Migrants at Work revealed.
This is despite Home Office guidance stating that a CoA confirming a valid EUSS application made on or after 1 July can be verified with the Home Office Employer Checking Service, and gives EU citizens the right to new employment whilst waiting for an application outcome.
Migrants at Work raised the issue with the Delegation of the European Union to the United Kingdom, tweeting it goes against the Brexit deal signed by the UK and the EU. “These kinds of unlawful and discriminatory practices breach the withdrawal agreement,” they said.
Meanwhile, the group revealed an email received a few years ago, to illustrate how EU nationals may now be affected.
The email is understood to have been sent by an employer to a non-EU citizen, and was telling the worker their contract would be amended to have an end date, arguing they could not “have employees on permanent contracts if they do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.”
EU citizens who obtain settled status have the equivalent of indefinite leave to remain – and are legally allowed to work and change jobs if their application for the immigration status is pending.
An investigation has been lauched by Migrants at Work into the issue signalled to them regarding Romanians in Britain, and they announced they would contact The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, a UK government agency working to protect vulnerable and exploited workers.
‘UK law creates homegrown slavery’
The group said: “Homegrown slavery has been a problem for 25 years, since 1996.
“The conflict between migration law and labour laws creates and exacerbates vulnerability to homegrown slavery. Labour exploitation at the intersection of immigration law and employment has been neglected for 25 years.
“Migrants who have the legal right to work are shafted into slavery made in the UK because immigration is too complex for employers to understand. For unscrupulous employers, it is an opportunity.
“We need support on the ground to assist our community members. Sadly, there is no support for community organisations in this new field. Funders, you are funding work to tackle modern slavery. Take a look at homegrown slavery.”