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Publication - Dr Katie Bales

    Unfree labour in UK detention centres

    Exploitation and coercion of a captive immigrant workforce


    Bales, K & Mayblin, L, 2018, ‘Unfree labour in UK detention centres: Exploitation and coercion of a captive immigrant workforce’. Economy and Society, vol 47., pp. 191-213


    The vast majority of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Britain are forbidden from working, however there is one exception to this ban: detainees are permitted to work in immigration detention centres. Here, they are excluded from minimum wage laws and are paid between £1 and £1.25 per hour to undertake tasks integral to the running of the centres. Drawing on documentary evidence this article advances two key arguments. First, that the available data on paid activities indicates that detainees should legally be considered employees and granted access to labour protections, including the national minimum wage. Second, that work in immigration detention is an example of state sanctioned exploitative, coercive, and unfree labour amongst a hyper-precarious group of the population. Drawing together a framework for analysis from literatures on hyper-precarity, labour exploitation, and political economy, this case has implications for other country contexts where immigration detention is used.

    Full details in the University publications repository