Protection of labour rights of Undocumented Migrant Workers against severe labour exploitation in the EU: a case for supporting clandestine workers in Belgium

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Taha, Suhail
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Today in democratic Europe, hundreds of thousands of migrants are deprived of basic social rights, and are exposed to various forms of severe labour exploitation; which has become a phenomenon in the European Union member-states. Difficult economic and social circumstances are the driving forces that cause migrants to work in conditions that do not adhere to the minimum legal and employment standard. The employers are taking advantage of the vulnerable situation of these migrants, many of whom live in constant fear due to their illegal status. In Belgium, ironically, serious violations against undocumented migrants often take place in Brussels, the city where most of the EU legislations are adopted and enacted. The professor of migration at Oxford University, Bridget Anderson, refused to frame the tragedy only as an immigrant issue, stating that the issue of illegal immigration is rooted in deeper problems such as global inequality, injustice, neo-liberal capitalism, and wars in countries neighboring Europe. While Bridget Anderson criticized the current policy mind-set by introducing the concept of ‘violent humanitarianism’ referring to EU responses and policy on migration that rhetorically aims to implement humanitarian objectives, while in terms of practice it contributes to the suffering of victims by choosing ‘violence’ or military response to this tragedy. Most illegal immigrants are often at the bottom of the Belgian labour market, forced to take up menial jobs that locals are not interested in, as stated by Reynieri. OR.C.A refers to them as “The hidden face of our neoliberal economic system”, while PICUM says that Migrant workers take up the ‘3-D’ jobs, namely dirty, degrading and dangerous. The first part of the report presents the EU legal framework for combating forms of labour exploitation. The report also sheds a light on the EU policy on migration, while examining its objectives, and assessing the current debate whether the policy in place focuses more on criminalizing or decriminalizing the undocumented migrants. The second part of the report highlights the situation in Belgium, where exploitation of undocumented migrants prevalent. Finally, the report presents reflections based on research work conducted in collaboration with OR.C.A organization for Rights of Undocumented Migrant Workers, of which it includes an interview with an undocumented victimized worker. This report aims to highlight the gap between the EU legal frameworks for protecting labour rights of undocumented migrants against exploitation, and the vulnerable living conditions and exploitation of the undocumented. As for now, the EU has put into legislation many directives that address the rights of the undocumented migrant workers, namely the Employers Sanctions Directive, the Anti-Trafficking Directive and the Seasonal Worker Directive. However, civil society organisations have called upon the EU to call upon member states to transpose the provisions of the directives into their national law, and to create new mechanisms that will ensure implementation of the laws that will guarantee the protection of the undocumented community against prevalent forms of severe labour exploitation in the EU, such as slavery, servitude and forced labour.
Internship report: Organization for Undocumented Migrant Workers (OR.C.A)
migrant workers, irregular migrations, European Union, Belgium, emigration and immigration law, labour exploitation