At this point in time, a minimum of 30,000 foreign workers is being sought from countries including Belarus and Russia to come quarantine-free to the UK. In effect, this means that hundreds of seasonal agricultural workers are being recruited from totalitarian regimes as Britain triples the number of foreign migrants used to bring in the Summer harvest.
At least 30,000 foreign workers are being recruited from countries including Belarus and Russia, despite both nations being under international sanctions. Ministers decided not to re-start last year’s Pick for Britain campaign to recruit UK workers on furlough; they have instead expanded the scheme from 10,000 last year to 30,000 with more recruits from Belarus and Russia where the economies are in such disarray that recruitment agencies are receiving up to five applications for every UK farm vacancy.
According to regional recruitment agency Agropraktika, some of the 300 applicants from Belarus are unemployed after losing their jobs for protesting against President Alexander Lukashenko’s ‘fraudulent’ election victory last year, when he claimed 80 per cent of the vote. Securing a six-month work visa for the UK is the only way to leave the country and offers the prospect of a £300-a-week pay package, treble what they could earn in Belarus for a similar job, said Natalie Babelis, Agropraktika’s manager.
Andrew Wilson, UCL professor of Ukrainian politics and author of newly-published Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship, said job losses and migration involved Belarusians at both the top and bottom end of society.
“The economy was already living hand to mouth in 2010 and they have struggled for a decade with much lower growth which has been compounded by Russia’s own economic problems. People have also lost their jobs over the protests since last August,” said Wilson.