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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Chinese workers' plight revealed
Chinese workers
Some Chinese workers have been beaten by gangmasters
A picture of Chinese workers being humiliated, beaten and exploited has emerged from a conference on migration into Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Police, immigration authorities, employers and workers' rights groups discussed the impact the migrants have had on local communities.

They also heard about the hardships they face because of racism and ruthless employers.

Thousands of migrants come to work in agriculture and food processing.

Traditionally many have come from eastern Europe but more recently there has been an increasing number from Asia.

'Built up trust'

Many are finding their way into the country illegally, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by rogue gangmasters.

The conference at Norwich is aiming to make the Chinese workers aware of their rights and what help can be given to integrate legal migrant workers into established communities.

A study has been made of the Chinese and Neil Ferguson of Norfolk Police said: "The problem is worse than many people believed with many workers facing a huge amount of racism.

Many are afraid to leave their homes because they face so much abuse
Bonnie Lean
"We have to work on this and get to grips with the issues but that is the negative side.

"Our ethnic liaison officers, not all police I would accept, have connected with the Chinese community and built up a lot of trust."

Mandarin speaker Bonnie Lean told the conference about the isolation Chinese people felt because of the language barrier and the conditions they faced.

"Many are afraid to leave their homes because they face so much abuse.

"Others have told me of being beaten by gangmasters while being paid very little by employers and agencies."

Police liaison officer Tony Lombari was praised for bringing the issues to public attention.

Accurate picture

Norfolk Police Assistant Constable Simon Taylor said it was important that allthe agencies involved in dealing with migrant workers had an accurate picture ofthe scale of the problem.

"We have now got some real pointers as to the direction things need to flowin," he said.

"Some people have used the word shocking at these findings and I canunderstand that reaction from people who were unaware of the problems.

"But we have been aware from information on the ground of what some of theseissues are and this gives us a fuller picture. We have now got to get to gripswith these issues.

"They are complex and difficult and not easy problems to solve. But I amoptimistic. There is a lot of determination."


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