GLAA signs landmark agreements with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
30th May 2023
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) has signed landmark agreements with the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in a move to strengthen the protections for workers arriving in the UK.
GLAA representatives ratified the documents at official ceremonies in the capital cities of Bishkek and Tashkent during a five-day fact-finding mission in the region beginning on Sunday May 21.
In Kyrgyzstan, the agreement is between the GLAA and the Centre for Employment of Citizens, which sits under the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Migration.
In Uzbekistan, the memorandum is between the GLAA on behalf of the UK government and the Agency of External Labour Migration, which sits under the Ministry of Employment and Poverty Reduction.
The documents establish several areas of mutual co-operation between the parties, with information sharing about recruitment agencies sending workers from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the UK a key priority.
Signatories will work together to check that where recruitment agencies are used in the recruitment process, they are operating within the rules, both in the recruiting country and the UK, and are not placing their workers at greater risk of exploitation.
Current plans in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan further reduce the risk of exploitation as the government agencies there will operate some of the recruiting and pre-departure activities that would normally be conducted by private recruitment agencies.
The document also commits the parties to protecting the rights and interests of Kyrgyz and Uzbek workers while they are working legally in the UK.
More than 6,000 visas were issued to workers from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as part of the Seasonal Worker visa route in 2022, making up almost a quarter of all workers that year. Many more are expected to arrive this year from Central Asia.
Uzbekistan was the second-biggest source of seasonal workers last year after Ukraine, with Kyrgyzstan fourth on the list.
Darryl Dixon, who signed the agreements on behalf of the GLAA, said: “We saw a sharp upturn in the number of seasonal workers coming to the UK from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2022 and our intelligence indicates that this is only going to keep rising in the next few years.
“As an organisation which exists to protect vulnerable workers, we are keen to ensure that everyone who arrives on the scheme leaves with a positive experience of working on UK farms and are not exploited for their labour.
“The historic documents signed this week recognise the existing friendly relations between the GLAA and our valued partners here in Central Asia.
“We hope the agreements further strengthen and develop the co-operation between our organisations on the basis of mutual solidarity and respect.
“I am particularly encouraged by the commitment to information sharing between all parties which will allow us to better take action against recruitment agencies exploiting workers and not following our regulations.”