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Ukrainians Escape ‘Slave Conditions’ On UK Farms – Media

Ukrainians Escape ‘Slave Conditions’ On UK Farms – Media
folder_openUnited Kingdom access_time2 months ago
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By Staff, Agencies

Hundreds of Ukrainians in the UK on seasonal visas have ended up working on farms they describe as “akin to modern-day slavery,” the Guardian, which spoke to multiple people who had escaped from such farms, reported on Tuesday.

A Ukrainian worker who escaped one of the farms described feeling like a “hostage in the UK,” unable to go home because of the war but forced to do menial labor for a living despite having two university degrees. She had worked on a cherry farm where laborers were not even allowed gloves, causing extreme damage to their hands and skin.

“Nobody cares what happens to seasonal workers. I thought our rights would be well protected in the UK but this has not happened. Working on the farm is probably one of the worst experiences and the worst treatment of my life,” the woman said, adding that the farm management set “unachievable targets” and when workers tried to protest, it suspended them for a week.

“I will never go to work on any of the farms again – there are no happy stories,” she continued. “Everyone runs away.” She said all but 38 of the workers at the cherry farm had fled as well and most were trying their luck in the underground economy of the cities.

Ukrainians are the primary recipients of T5 seasonal work visas in the UK, with two thirds [19,920] of the 29,631 visas of this type going to temporary workers from that country. Should they leave the farms where they say they are being abused, however, their options are limited – under-the-table employment, since they no longer have a legal visa to get an on-the-books job, or going home, where war is currently raging.

This is not the first time UK farms have been called out for mistreating their workers. A review by the Home Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published last year revealed that migrant workers who had come to the UK to harvest fruit and vegetables were subject to “unacceptable” welfare conditions like a lack of safety equipment, kitchens, toilets, or even running water.