27th May 2022 Bureau of Investigative Journalism Investigation: Migrant fruit pickers from Nepal charged thousands in illegal fees to work on UK farms https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2022-05-27/migrant-fruit-pickers-charged-thousands-in-illegal-fees-to-work-on-uk-farms
Ditya*, a single mother from Nepal, is used to travelling abroad for work. For years she has made a living as a migrant farm worker, where she can earn several times what she would in her home country. Last year she applied to become part of the UK government’s seasonal worker visa scheme, picking fruit and vegetables on a farm in Herefordshire that supplies fresh produce to M&S, Tesco and Waitrose.
Ditya got the job, but it came at a huge cost. In order to secure it, she says she had to pay more than £3,000 – almost a third of what she earned during the six-month post – to recruitment agents.
Some of that money covered the cost of her flight and visa application. The rest appears to include illegal fees that labour rights experts describe as “exploitative and extortionate”.
A joint investigation by the Bureau and the Guardian can reveal that as many as 150 Nepalese workers who came to work at Cobrey farm in Herefordshire as part of the government scheme may have paid similar amounts, many of them claiming to have paid agents working for a UK-licensed recruitment company.