This in-depth report builds on previous FLEX work examining temporary migration programmes. The Government’s long-awaited December 2018 Immigration White Paper, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, described plans for three temporary migration programmes designed to bring workers to the UK after Brexit.
1. Seasonal Workers Pilot
This pilot will bring 2,500 workers per year to the UK from outside the EU to work on farms within edible horticulture on six-month visas. Workers will not be allowed to return to the UK under the same route for a further six months (‘cooling-off period’). The pilot is already operational, having been introduced under Immigration Rules on 11 December 2018 and is referred to within the Immigration White Paper under Section 6. Workers will be tied to a sponsoring operator company who will then send them to an employer farm.
2. 12-month short-term visa
This proposed new route would allow workers at any skill level to come to work in the UK for a maximum period of 12 months. This would be followed by a 12-month cooling-off period during which the person cannot reapply under the scheme. Workers will not be tied to any specific employer, operator or sector. It will be open to people from “low risk” countries only. These countries have not yet been specified by government.
3. UK-EU Youth Mobility Scheme
This would be a continuation of the already-existent Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS), though amended to take into account “EU specificities”. The current YMS allows individuals aged 18 to 30 from eight countries to come to the UK to work or study for up to two years. The visa is non-renewable. To date, the YMS has not been a major source of labour migration to the UK.
Brexit and the end to free movement of labour between the UK and the EU will undoubtedly lead to demand for new labour migration routes, particularly among industries currently reliant on migrant workers. However, FLEX considers that the proposed TMPs pose significant risks of labour abuse and exploitation. Today’s report examines these three programmes and draws on examples of other such schemes from the UK’s own history and around the world to demonstrate the pitfalls and risks present in them from the perspective of workers.
In seeking to engage productively with the Government’s future immigration plans, the report and attendant briefing propose clear recommendations to ensure workers coming to the UK under any such schemes are provided with sufficient rights and protections. These include: