Author: PHIL MILLER
DETAINED migrants have been swindled out of more than £27 million worth of work they are paid just £1 an hour to do, the Morning Star can reveal.
The Home Office pays asylum-seekers and other migrants the measly sum, a fraction of the minimum wage, for work inside detention centres.
However, the Star calculates that if they were paid the minimum wage they would have earned £27.7m more over the last decade.
Detainees carry out the jobs while they are locked up waiting for a decision on their citizenship applications.
They are exempt from minimum wage protections, despite not serving criminal sentences.
Under detention centre rules, they can work up to 30 hours a week on jobs that include cleaning toilets and removing body fat from shower drains.
Detainees have clocked up approximately five million hours since 2009, and earned around £5m from the Home Office, according to freedom of information requests by the Star.
We calculate that if they had received the minimum wage, which rose steadily over the last decade, they would have earned nearly £33.5m.
We will keep demanding the data to put pressure on the Home Office as part of a new Morning Star campaign — No More Sweated Labour — launched today for detainees to earn the minimum wage.
Reacting to our investigation, Labour’s shadow Home Office minister Lord Rosser condemned the scheme as exploitative and hypocritical.
“This exploitation of immigrants in detention is happening on the watch of the very same ministers that say immigration must be curbed because it holds down the pay levels of working people,” the former trade union leader said.
“It also reinforces the need to be very wary of Conservative claims that they will protect workers’ rights after Brexit.”
As well as mounting political pressure, the legality of the low pay scheme is being challenged at the High Court by several detainees.
Their lawyer Philip Armitage said: “These latest figures show the huge sums which are being saved by paying those held in immigration detention £1 per hour for their labour.
“Our clients worked up to 30 hours per week doing critical work for the maintenance of the detention estate, such as cleaning, because they were desperately in need of financial support.
“The situation is clearly exploitative and another scandalous abuse of Home Office power.”
The detainees have lodged a judicial review against a decision taken by the Home Office at the height of the Windrush scandal last year to freeze detainee pay at £1 an hour.
Civil servants had recommended a paltry raise of 15p per hour to detainee pay “in line with inflation” — but even this was deemed too high.
Private companies like G4S and Serco that operate many of the detention centres had actually advised a more substantial pay rise.
One firm suggested up to £2.50 an hour, although this would still only be a third of the minimum wage.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The longstanding practice of offering paid activities to people in immigration detention centres helps to keep them occupied while their removal is being arranged.
“This practice is not a substitute for the work of trained staff due to the voluntary nature of the roles offered to detainees.
“Whether or not they wish to participate is entirely up to the detainees themselves, but the numbers of detainees volunteering for paid activities across the detention estate is evidence that the jobs are popular.”