Worker Registration Scheme: ‘abuse of human rights’

More questions, more calls for it’s abolition, but no answers yet on the WRS

The MP for Glasgow South West has submitted a written question as to the future of the WRS, on behalf of a Glasgow Polish residents association. We await a response from the Minister.

Meanwhile, the Lords have been asking questions, amid evidence that the scheme leads to human rights abuses. From Hansard, 31 Mar 2009:

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they will extend the Worker Registration Scheme beyond 30 April. The response, from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, was that

No decision has yet been taken on whether to continue the Worker Registration Scheme beyond the end of April 2009.

Lord Robert’s question was in relation to evidence submitted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the Worker Registration Scheme. They have added their name to the growing numbers calling for its abolition.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Monica McWilliams commented:

“The Human Rights Commission has found that its effects can lead to violations of the right to life and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. The Worker Registration Scheme is due to end and the Commission urges government not to extend it.”

The Commission has found examples of human rights abuses which are a direct result of the scheme, including victims of domestic violence being prevented from accessing accommodation and benefits. In such cases women are being forced to choose between extreme poverty and remaining in potentially deadly relationships. The Commission has also encountered a number of people forced to sleep rough on the streets of Northern Ireland having being denied access to temporary accommodation.

NI Human Rights Commission Recommendations:

Main recommendation:

The Commission recommends that the Worker Registration Scheme is discontinued in its entirety.

Further Recommendations:

In the event that the scheme is continued, the Commission recommends the following:

1. The government’s administration of the scheme should consider compassionate grounds to allow those people at risk of destitution to access support.

2. The government must allow victims of domestic violence access to the services they desperately need to ensure their protection and safety.

3. The government should carefully review existing interagency information sharing protocols to prevent access to support being denied.

4. The government should ensure that all employers are clearly aware of their obligations under the scheme and are in a position to assist their employees with the process.

5. The government should effectively make use of available sanctions for those employers who ignore their obligations under the scheme and seek to exploit their employees.

6. Registration of a change of employment should not be a requirement of the Worker Registration Scheme.

7. The government must lower the fee (currently £90) attributed to the Worker Registration Scheme with a view to phasing out the fee in line with the end of the scheme.

8. The government should take all necessary measures to ensure that guides for migrant workers, outlining their rights, can be reproduced and disseminated, at all appropriate points throughout the UK, for workers, voluntary organisations, employers and government service providers.

9. The government should ensure that information is available to migrants before they arrive in the UK by arranging for the dissemination of guides in co-operation with the countries of origin.

download the Commission’s report here (pdf)

previously on Migrant InfoSource…

In May last year, an alliance of employers, unions and others claim the Scheme had outlived its usefulness and was producing inadequate statistics, at great cost to migrant workers and inconvenience to both them and their employers.

The TUC’s Commision on Vulnerable Employment had previously highlighted the WRS as contributing to the vulnerable exploitation of migrant workers, with restricted access to support forcing huge numbers into vulnerable employment – “trapped in a continual round of low-paid and insecure work where mistreatment is the norm”.

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