UK Care Firm Exploits African Migrants, Charges Them Thousands for Visas

Gloriavd Health Care Ltd allegedly overcharged Zimbabwean care workers for visas and threatened them with deportation if they complained

by Victor Adetimilehin

A UK-based care company that serves NHS patients has been accused of exploiting migrant workers from Africa by charging them exorbitant fees for visas and providing them with substandard accommodation and low-paid work.

Gloriavd HealthCare Ltd, operated by Gloria Van Dunem, recruited care workers from Zimbabwe and promised them jobs in and around Leeds and Bath. The workers were told to pay thousands of pounds to the company in return for arranging their visas, sponsorships, and accommodation.

However, the workers claimed they were given far less work than they had expected, were housed in overcrowded rooms, and faced a threat that their conduct could be reported to the Home Office, leading them to fear deportation if they complained.

One woman alleged she sold her home in rural South Africa to pay £6,500 in fees to Gloriavd, only to find she and her colleagues had so little work they had to rely on food banks.

“She took all that I had,” said Winnet Mushaninga, 40, a qualified care worker from Zimbabwe who has been living near Durban. “The trauma and suffering was too much. We paid a lot of money. It’s just painful.”

The Home Office charges no more than £551 for a visa for care workers and the cost of a sponsor license for a small company to bring in foreign care workers is £536.

A Growing Problem

The allegations come amid a growing concern about the exploitation of the immigration route by some social care and employment agencies.

The Home Office added care workers to the UK’s shortage occupation list in 2022 to help fill 165,000 vacancies in care homes and domiciliary care. However, some agencies have been taking advantage of the high demand and the vulnerability of migrant workers.

Mushaninga is among several care workers in Yorkshire being supported by the Leeds branch of Acorn, a community union that is running a Carers Fight Back campaign “not only to win back justice, compensation and job security for our members that have worked for Gloriavd, but for every worker across the UK that is experiencing this injustice,” said Rohan Prasad-Weitz, branch secretary.

A Harsh Reality

Mushaninga said she was recruited directly from Africa by Gloriavd and understood the fee would cover the cost of the visa and the certificate of sponsorship as well as two months’ accommodation and access to a full-time job.

But on arrival in Britain last April, Mushaninga alleged she had to live squeezed four to a room with mattresses on the floor, earned just £20 a day, and ended up feeding herself from a church food bank.

She claimed that she and her fellow care workers would wait for hours for their next appointments in parks and bus stations. On occasion they got soaked in the rain. They didn’t have a car so travelled by bus between appointments. “We ended up going to food banks”.

The range of issues appears to extend beyond what the Home Office tells visa sponsors they need to report. Guidance lists reporting duties including when a worker is absent without permission for more than 10 consecutive working days or is absent without pay or on reduced pay for more than four weeks in a year. 

Van Dunem’s lawyer said: “Our client being a sponsor licensee has record-keeping and reporting duties,” and “matters such as working for another company, holidays, absences, and unauthorized absences are within the purview of reporting duties under certain circumstances.”

A Hope for Change

The workers’ plight has drawn attention from human rights groups and politicians, who have called for an investigation into Gloriavd and other agencies that may be involved in similar practices.

“We are appalled by these allegations of exploitation and abuse of migrant care workers,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director. “The government must urgently look into this and ensure that all care workers are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their immigration status.”

The workers are hoping to get justice and compensation from Gloriavd, as well as secure their future in the UK. They are also appealing for public support and solidarity from other care workers and unions.

Source: New Zimbabwe

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