This crisis has thrown the spotlight and gratitude onto those who have kept the country going. Cleaners, taxi drivers, delivery drivers, shop workers, nurses and carers have been at maximum risk but often minimum wage, doing jobs that Britain simply could not function without.

But for those without the right papers, work can be a dangerous place.

Anjay (not his real name), is a Tamil refugee, but lived undocumented in the UK for several years before he was able to get the legal representation he needed to be recognised by the Home Office. During this time, he worked informally in a number of jobs, including shops, a petrol station, and a restaurant.

“We have to work to make a living. And we’re desperate to help and save our families” Anjay explains. He was exploited by employers and agents, who stole his wages. When he couldn’t afford rent, he became homeless, despite working 12-hour days. He never had enough to eat.

It is impossible for people like Anjay to report the exploitation they are experiencing, as working is criminalised for undocumented migrants, with the threat of arrest and deportation looming over those who speak up.

“Being a sensible, responsible and practical person – risking everything and tolerating all the exploitation is the only way to survival if you are classified as illegal or failed asylum seeker.”

This crisis has shown us all that the value of our work to society is what we do, not what we earn or where we come from. This new and deep appreciation of our migrant and British key workers, who stood side by side bearing the burden of the pandemic, must form the basis of new rules for employment.

A new deal on migration means

  • Repealing the offence of ‘illegal working’ to ensure that all migrants are able earn a living, access union support and have full protection from exploitative employers.