Author: Sam Tobin
IMMIGRATION detainees are being exploited by the Home Office by being paid just £1 an hour to work in detention centres, the High Court heard today.
Four former and current detainees claim the “blanket rate” paid for work while held in immigration removal centres (IRCs) is unlawful.
They say IRCs rely on their labour, which includes working as cleaners, barbers and even organising legal advice surgeries.
The Home Office claims that detainees are under no obligation to carry out paid work.
Hugh Southey QC, representing those detained, said that “setting a flat rate of £1 for all work no matter what type, what quality, and done with whatever effort, and for work from which the centres accept they benefit, is incompatible with detainee dignity.”
He also referred to an independent review of immigration detention in 2016 in which “regular references to slave labour” were made by detainees.
Mr Southey said his clients had been “producing work of real value and developing skills which benefit the IRCs,” including working “as cleaners, in the laundry, in welfare roles, in the servery (and) as hairdressers.”
He noted three of the claimants said they had “never seen a cleaner who was not a detainee” and pointed out “if detainees did not clean then staff would have to do it.”
Mr Southey said: “The IRCs are reliant on detainee work and it is therefore exploitative to pay them so little, knowing they will do it anyway because they are bored and desperate.”
One of the claimants, Glenroy Wilson, worked as a cleaner at Brook House IRC near Gatwick Airport for around four months until his release in November.
Speaking outside court, he said: “There’s quite a few times when I challenged the managers about pay but they said there was nothing they could do.
“They said it’s down to the Home Office.”
Asked if he felt the £1 an hour rate amounted to slave labour, he replied: “In a way it does, because some jobs they don’t even pay £4 a day and some of them pay less.”
Mr Justice Murray will hear arguments from the claimants and the Home Office over two days and is expected to reserve his judgment.