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  • Author or Editor: Samantha Currie x
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In the post-Brexit context increased attention is (correctly) being paid to the heightened risks of labour exploitation for EU migrants. The removal of free movement-facilitated access to the labour market, and the loss of associated social rights stemming from Union citizenship, contribute to the enhanced vulnerability of EU migrants to exploitative treatment. However, even under the auspices of the free movement framework, exploitation has been part of (some) EU migrants’ experiences in the UK labour market over many years. In particular, migrants from the Central and Eastern European (CEE) states that acceded to the EU in 2004 and 2007 have been more heavily concentrated in sectors of the labour market in which slippage along the continuum from poor treatment in employment to more severe forms of labour exploitation is more common. These migrants have had a higher visibility as victims of the types of exploitation deemed to constitute modern slavery than EU migrants from the older member states. This can be traced back to the way in which ‘free’ movement was extended to the new EU citizens at the time of EU enlargement. CEE accession migrants’ access to the labour market was conditioned on their willingness to carry out low-skilled roles to plug gaps in the (pre-2008 financial crash) labour market. The curtailed nature of the original access rights has ongoing implications for the treatment that migrants from the CEE accession states experience in the workplace. Moreover, the restrictive trajectory of immigration policy generally, and the move towards limiting support for those identified as victims of modern slavery specifically – encapsulated in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and Illegal Migration Act 2023 – offers little solace for the future to any migrants who experience exploitation in the UK.

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