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Gangmasters
Monday June 19 2000
Reporter Paul Kenyon
Producer Sam Anstiss
Assistant Producer Darren Kemp

STOP PRESS June 22
Andris Cerins was dismissed by King's Lynn-based FP Personnel following the revelations in this programme

Panorama exposes the corrupt Gangmasters, who get work for illegal immigrants and, in some cases, agree to organise false papers for them.

Scroll down for related links

In an undercover investigation, Panorama infiltrates the secret labour forces being sent to work in four large suppliers across the country, processing goods from chickens and pies, to lettuces and potatoes.

Illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe are sent to work in factories and farms supplying major supermarket chains including Asda, Sainsbury, Iceland, Harrods, Morrisons, Aldi and the Co-Ops

All the suppliers and supermarkets featured in the programme say that they had no knowledge that illegals were being employed and say that legal responsibility does not lie with them.

The supermarkets buy 80% of the fresh produce in this country and they're putting tremendous pressure on both the packhouses and the farmers to reduce costs

Don Pollard
But Trade Union researcher Don Pollard claims that the current supermarket price war is driving this trade in illegal immigrants. He tells Panorama "The supermarkets buy 80% of the fresh produce in this country and they're putting tremendous pressure on both the packhouses and the farmers to reduce costs."

Many illegal immigrants come to the UK to work in the hope that they can return home with money for their families. They respond to advertisements in Eastern European newspapers offering highly paid work and good conditions. Often they pay upwards of 1000 with the promise that transport to Britain will be arranged and work will be waiting for them when they arrive.

Forged Asylum Seeker Document
Forged Asylum Seeker Document
On arrival illegal immigrants are sold forged asylum seeker documents and charged to be introduced to gangmasters who find them work. Once in the Gangmaster's grasp many are underpaid and exploited by them. Work dries up and many are left in debt.

Many Gangmasters flout the law, seeing it only as an occupational hazard. Panorama confronts Mark Stratton who runs Mark Stratton Labour Supplies, an agency that hires out illegal workers.

One of his employees boasts to our undercover reporter that she has been raided many times with illegals being picked up over the last 10 years. She says "Mark runs the risk of giving you work...and you run the risk of getting caught. But that's the way it works. There are thousands and thousands of illegal workers and a few get caught and sent back."

Many illegal immigrants end up living in cold, damp accommodation. Two Estonians describe how they pay 60 per week each for a flat that has a bare concrete floor and is so cold at night that their clothes become frosted.

In many cases, they are unable to return home as most are in debt after paying their fare to the UK. They end up trapped in a cycle of work and low pay at the hands of the Gangmasters.

One illegal immigrant says "I would have got out of here the next day. But I did not have any money, I even had nothing to eat. So I was without food, beans without bread, looking for cigarette butts on the street. With this sort of life one can hang himself."

Related links:

BBC News - 58 dead in port lorry

BBC News - Supermarket price war intensifies

The Home Office - Immigration and Nationality Directorate

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Gangmasters
Russian Journalist Sergei goes undercover to reveal how illegal immigrants find work
Ganmasters
Paul Kenyon confronts gangmaster Mark Stratton

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