Whilst we remember the 23 Chinese cockle pickers who died five years ago, we must ask what has changed since then?
5th Feb 2009 was the 5th Anniversary of the tragedy at Morecambe Bay. Since that time little has changed to alleviate the exploitation and suffering that undocumented migrants are forced to endure in this country. The 23 migrants from Fujian, China died in terrible circumstances partly due to the greed of the gangmaster, Lin Lianren, who had exploited them but also thanks to a system that had allowed such exploitation to occur.
Although the courts found the gang master guilty of manslaughter, the Government's Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority found only last year that there was "no act of violence" against the victims and refused to grant any compensation to the families left behind in China.
"Do undocumented workers have so little protection under the law, their lives regarded of so little value? It would appear that even enemies of the State and prisoners of war have more rights and protection than undocumented workers" says Merlene Emerson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Hammersmith and co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats.
Neville Farmer, Vice Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats and a long time campaigner of migrants rights continued: "The Government is creating a social underclass with its policy towards the half a million or more undocumented migrants who have come to Britain in search of work. High profile raids and prosecutions are a smoke-screen that does little to reduce that number and drives thousands of vulnerable people into the hands of criminals, engendering a climate of fear and breeding social disharmony."
Speaking to mark the fifth anniversary of the Morecambe Bay Tragedy, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg MP said:
"Five years on from the tragic deaths of 23 vulnerable young people in Morecambe Bay, thousands of immigrants are still living and working in desperate and dangerous situations. Offering a route to earned citizenship would take illegal immigrants out of the hands of criminal gangs and bring them into civil society where they can pay taxes and contribute positively to society."
The Chinese Lib Dems agree with Jabez Lam of the UK Chinese Immigration Concern Committee when he says that "prosecuting employers found employing illegal workers is a blunt instrument to address the complicated problems of immigration. We believe that the regularisation of undocumented workers is an essential component to any constructive solution to protect these vulnerable workers from exploitation".