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Concern at fate of migrant workers

25 August, 2005

There is concern over the fate of up to twenty migrant workers who were detained in a joint PSNI/British Immigration Service operation in the Portadown area on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, according to Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA, John O'Dowd.

Assemblyman O'Dowd, "Sinn Féin has received reports from a number of reliable sources that as many as twenty migrant workers may have been detained in a joint PSNI/ British Immigration Service operation which commenced in the Portadown area on Tuesday. Those detained include Brazilian and Eastern European citizens. One unconfirmed report to Sinn Féin suggests that a daughter, her mother and grand-mother may be among those detained. At this stage, it is believed that those detained are only suspected of not being in possession of proper identification papers and documentation.  Concern has been expressed that attempts may be made to deport those detained as quickly as possible without permitting them access to full and proper legal representation in order that the detainees may be in a position to challenge their detention or prevent their deportation.

"Indeed, the apparent media blackout surrounding this operation reinforces the perception that this lack of publicity is clearly designed to assist the authorities in their attempt to "ghost" these people out of the country.

"Many migrant workers have work permits and are part of the formal labour force. But there are  a number of others who do not, for a wide variety of reasons. These undocumented, hidden or clandestine workers are at the mercy of some very unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers. They are vulnerable to abuse and desperately poorly paid. They often work long hours in conditions which are totally illegal. In a number of cases, they are living in overcrowded conditions while paying highly inflated rents and, in many instances, their employment and accommodation are linked.

Mr O'Dowd concluded by saying, "It would be interesting to know what action, if any, the PSNI and other authorities are taking against those known "gangmaster" type figures in Portadown and other areas of the North who are exploiting and profiteering on the backs of the migrant workers, particularly those who are 'undocumented' and cannot speak out because of that 'undocumented' status." ENDS

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