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Demonising 'the other': British Government complicity in the exploitation, social exclusion and vilification of new migrant workers

Wilkinson, Mick


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Dr Mick Wilkinson
Lecturer in Modern Slavery, Criminology & Social Justice


This article demonstrates the close and complex connection between the demonisation, exploitation and exclusion of new migrant workers. In so doing, it testifies to the blurred boundaries between the categories of severe labour exploitation, forced labour and slavery. This study highlights the absence of citizenship rights as crucial to understanding the vulnerability to demonisation, exploitation and exclusion that characterises the embodied experience of such workers. It also highlights the key role of citizenship as a means for such workers to make rights claims. In the UK, new migrant workers, particularly those arriving from Eastern Europe since 2004, have been increasingly designated by government and media as interlopers in a tight labour marketplace. Whilst their collective economic contribution is sometimes welcomed, they are regarded as ‘external’ to UK society and citizenship, a potential threat to indigenous values and culture, and in competition with British workers. Rarely are migrants afforded the space in public and private spheres to express their individual needs, wants, cares or perspectives. UK migrants have variously been portrayed by the tabloid media and irresponsible politicians as rapacious opportunists, as benefit scroungers, criminals and potential terrorists. The predominant discourse around new migrant workers in the UK is that they are not citizens, but temporary residents who are expected to work industriously and to remain otherwise unseen and unheard until they return to their country of origin. No further contribution to social and political life is required or expected. It is within such an unsupportive environment that new migrant workers in general, and undocumented migrants in particular, have become highly susceptible to employer and gangmaster abuse and exploitation.


Wilkinson, M. (2014). Demonising 'the other': British Government complicity in the exploitation, social exclusion and vilification of new migrant workers. Citizenship Studies, 18(5), 499-515.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 27, 2013
Online Publication Date Jul 22, 2014
Publication Date 2014
Deposit Date Jun 11, 2019
Journal Citizenship Studies
Print ISSN 1362-1025
Electronic ISSN 1469-3593
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 5
Pages 499-515
Keywords New migrants; Forced labour; Citizenship
Public URL
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Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope: