As unemployment in Britain spikes, anti-foreign labor sentiment is running high, and multinationals stand accused of violating their labor agreements by shipping in cheap workers from abroad. One employer is housing its guestworkers on a former prison ship that serves as both cheap housing and protection from angry mobs.
They're floating labor camps, seabound slums, theoretically tolerable migrant housing “converted” out of old prison barges.
But, one can only wonder, what “converted” actually means here, and what defines "tolerable." By the sounds of it, perhaps a few locks have been taken off the doors, a few bars removed from the cabin (cell) windows, but essentially, from what I can tell, the rest is what you might still imagine.
All of which naturally conjures wretched images of slave ships from the colonial era swarming the coasts of the frontier, and begs some very basic questions here: what are the regulations around reusing or “converting” prison barges into suitable housing? What are the health standards that apply to such floating migrant camps? What constitutes appropriate compensation for their work? Are they protected by any certain safety guarantees? Is there any political agency to act on their behalf? How are these labor barges governed internationally if they operate as a sea-based entity, perhaps domiciled outside the boundaries of formal juridical sovereignty? I mean, I don't know. What is the oversight for this type of practice, if any?
(Image: A Getty image of a former prison ship now used to barrack foreign workers employed at Lindsey Refinery, at Grimsby docks)