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Poor health is a recurrent theme in this book. Many of GYROS’ clients attribute this to their work and their housing as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. But this chapter explores health more broadly, building on Hazel Genn’s work on health justice. It considers the particular barriers to healthcare access for EU migrant workers, identified in the GYROS database, as well as the problems cascading to and from ill health – on one hand, poor accommodation, limited finances and difficult work environments and, on the other, ill health resulting in reduced working hours, debt and accommodation difficulties.

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Throughout the book, the authors have drawn out the themes of precarity and pragmatism. In this chapter, they explore the existing literature but find that this does not fully capture the realities of how EU migrant workers and their advisers tackle their problems. They introduce a fresh theoretical framework: ‘pragmatic law’ which examines how actors operate within a problem situation in which law features but is largely unacknowledged. It addresses the understanding that a person has a problem that needs to be resolved, but responds to the problem outside the traditional pathways of justice. It is pragmatism against the background of the law. It is attractively simple – it gets things done. But it also carries risks that systemic issues, such as poor-quality housing or bullying and discrimination at work, are not challenged and addressed. But the benefits are also considerable, as it provides help to ‘hard-to-reach’ communities using a resolution-focused, holistic approach, and it does so at low(er) cost, often in locations where there is no formal legal help to be had.

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The precarity of employment, particularly for agency workers and zero-hours contract workers, is explored in this chapter. The authors examine the small number of claims that were brought in employment tribunals and the much wider issues that were not reported formally but were raised regularly, including informal working arrangements with no paperwork, and poor practices such as the denial of toilet breaks, extremely cold working conditions, work that is too fast and too heavy and with noo control or say over working hours. Workers’ response to difficulties was rarely to challenge the problems or enforce their rights but rather to move on to another, better job. The chapter also examines how GYROS’ advisers helped their clients.

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This chapter looks at the housing situation generally in Great Yarmouth, the conditions in the House and the problems that are brought to GYROS. Problem clustering and problem cascading are discussed: without work, problems quickly accumulate as debts increase. The tenant may be evicted, particularly where the work and housing are tied together. For those with pre-settled status, there may be no safety net in the form of welfare benefits. In exploring the housing situation, the authors identify both the precarity of living arrangements – informal rental agreements and word of mouth referrals – and more obviously ‘legal’ issues – refusal to rent, poor-quality accommodation, eviction and lack of access to social housing. The response to these difficulties by GYROS was inevitably more ‘legal’ than in other areas, but it was still primarily pragmatic, seeking to avoid engagement with the courts where possible.

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In this chapter, the authors explore the operation of European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS), introduced post Brexit to address the immigration status of EU nationals who were already resident in the UK. A digital-only scheme, requiring Wi-Fi, smartphone and digital IT skills, as well as a good grasp of English, the EUSS brought with it particular difficulties for the EU migrant workers in Great Yarmouth. Other aspects of their lives – informal living arrangements without tenancy agreements, work without payslips – affected their ability to apply under the EUSS. Yet pre-settled status, for those resident for less than five years, and settled status, for those resident in the UK for over five years, has become a precondition for EU migrant workers and their family members to be able to continue to work, live, claim benefits and receive healthcare in the UK.

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The House, the Street, the Town

This book offers an in-depth exploration of the lives of EU migrant workers in the UK following Brexit and COVID-19.

Drawing on a longitudinal study, the book delves into the legal problems migrant workers face and sheds much-needed light on the hidden interactions between the law and communities around issues such as employment, housing, welfare and health. Through personal narratives and insights gathered from interviews, it reveals how (clustered) legal problems arise, are resolved and often bypass formal legal resolution pathways.

This is an invaluable resource that provides a rich picture of everyday life for migrant workers in the UK and highlights the vital role of NGOs working to support them.

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This book explores the lives of EU migrant workers in Great Yarmouth, including their experiences of coming to the UK, their living and working conditions, how they navigated their new immigration status especially post Brexit and what they did when things went wrong.

Through the authors’ work with Great Yarmouth Refugee and Outreach Support (GYROS) – a migrant support charity in Great Yarmouth, which shared its anonymized client data – and their interviews with key stakeholders as well as the time a researcher spent living in a house of multiple occupation alongside EU migrant workers, the authors reveal individuals facing precarious situations in respect of work, housing and health. This caused them many difficulties.

So, what did they do when things went wrong? Something rather different to what the authors, as lawyers, were expecting. These EU migrant workers were conscious of problems they had but not necessarily that these were legal problems. GYROS’ clients wanted their problems resolved quickly and without having to access the courts. The authors saw what they term ‘pragmatic law’ – ‘pragmatic’ because GYROS seeks practical holistic solutions to the problems clients presented and ‘law’ to recognize that these issues (housing, welfare, employment) are all legal at root even if advisors and clients do not think of them as such.

Despite overwhelmingly positive feedback on the support provided by GYROS, is it in the clients’ best interest not to have recourse to the courts to resolve a justiciable issue? The authors consider pragmatic law and evaluate the benefits of (legal) advice in encouraging early resolution of problems, particularly in the context of vulnerable EU migrants without the English language skills needed to navigate British systems.

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This chapter sets out the questions that guide the research. It considers why we decided to locate the research in Great Yarmouth and briefly explains the methodology used to conduct the research. It also provides an overview of the structure of the research. Finally, it identifies the themes of the book (precarity and pragmatism) and briefly explores the existing literature before introducing the authors’ framing of ‘pragmatic law’.

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In this chapter, the authors contextualize the research, discussing the Town (Great Yarmouth) in which the study was conducted, the socioeconomic context of the Town and the history of migration to the Town – from the postwar Greek Cypriot migration to the large Portuguese migration then the Portuguese diasporic migration, the EU8 migration, mainly from Lithuania and Latvia and, finally, the EU2 migration by the Romanian and Bulgarian populations. They then consider the Street in which the House of the research is located. The picture is of considerable deprivation. The authors discuss the House itself conditions and introduce its eight occupants – all EU nationals. They also consider the work of GYROS within the community advice sector. The lens of the House, the Street, the Town provides unique insights into the everyday lives of EU nationals living in Great Yarmouth, adding depth to GYROS’ longitudinal data.

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In this chapter, issues around welfare benefits and debt are explored. This is the most common topic within the GYROS database, particularly for in-work benefits to ‘top up’ low-paid work for clients facing significant in-work poverty. Bureaucratic bordering is identified as a key issue, as migrant workers must prove they have been ‘habitually resident’ and ‘exercising a treaty right’ in order to claim welfare benefits such as Universal Credit. The authors also explore issues of debt and the interrelationship between work precarity and debt. Zero-hours contracts combined with low pay mean individuals are often living pay packet to pay packet. They have little to fall back on when things go wrong. They also face a poverty premium in terms of payment demands, costs of court summons and late payment fees, which aggravate their already precarious financial situation.

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