The Migration Conundrum - 5th February 2004


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A powerpoint telling the story of the fate of the Chinese cockle-pickers of Morecambe Bay. Leads into an investigative inquiry into who was responsible.

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The Migration Conundrum - 5th February 2004

  1. 1. 3 p.m. Image © John Hawkins
  2. 2. Millions finishing school Image © John Hawkins
  3. 3. Tens of millions still at work Image © John Hawkins
  4. 4. Thousands wondering what to do this evening… Image © John Hawkins
  5. 5. And 23 starting work here…
  6. 6. This is Morecambe Bay, South Cumbria. Strong currents from the Rivers Kent and Keer, deep channels and treacherous quicksand combine to make it a lethal landscape.
  7. 7. Image © Corbis
  8. 8. Hundreds of people make their living from the bay, picking cockles from the mud to sell in restaurants and supermarkets Image © View Images
  9. 9. 3pm, February 5th, 2004 A group of cockle pickers make their way across the bay to begin work… Image ©
  10. 10. The bay is a treasure-trove of cockles. If every one could be harvested, they’d be worth £6m a year. Image ©
  11. 11. The group hurry out to the bay – the tide is out and they don’t have much time. For some, it’s their first day on the bay… Image ©
  12. 12. Inexperienced, the group work for as long as their ‘gang’ boss tells them… Image © Getty Images
  13. 13. As darkness falls, the tide begins to come in… Image © Getty Images
  14. 14. They realise too late. They are trapped. Image ©
  15. 15. They have no safety equipment. Many cannot swim. The water is freezing.
  16. 16. One man calls his wife on his mobile phone and says: "Tell the family to pray for me. It's too close. I am dying.”
  17. 17. The alarm is raised. Emergency services rush to the scene.
  18. 18. Some make it to higher ground. They are rescued and brought ashore Image © BBC News
  19. 19. People are rushed to hospital Image © Phil Noble, Press Association
  20. 20. The next morning, the extent of the tragedy becomes clear. Image © Bryan Heard
  21. 21. 23 people have lost their lives.
  22. 22. Who were they? Image © kingsdude,
  23. 23. 23 people whose families lived 5000 miles away
  24. 24. Each of the victims paid £12,000 to be smuggled across borders into the UK. Here, they were paid a tiny wage by their ‘gangmaster’ who would reduce their money with deductions for housing and travel. A bag of cockles picked by the workers would fetch £15, but the gangmaster, Lin Liang Ren, would take £10 of that. The cockle pickers would receive £5, but it was easily more than the average income of £40 a month back home in rural China.
  25. 25. Family File Image © Liu Qin Ying was a farmer and Xu Yu Hua was a driver in Fujian. They are husband and wife, and were drowned together on the same night at Morecambe Bay. They have one son of 18 and a younger disabled daughter. Xu Yu Hua came to Britain a year before his wife. He didn't want her to follow him. But she was determined. She died on the first day when she joined her husband in cockling. Her body was never found. Xu Yu Hua’s elderly sister says: “They left to go to work in England and endured a subhuman working life, just to improve our lives at home. Their deaths have brought so much pain to all of us. And since then, we have been living in debt."
  26. 26. A SPECIAL PUBLIC INQUIRY BY COMMISSION The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible?
  27. 27. The UK Government UK Shoppers The gangmaster The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? Write in a percentage representing how responsible you think each group is. Your total must = 100%. Cockle Pickers Supermarkets ‘SnakeHead’ smuggling gang
  28. 28. The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? Lin Liang Ren: The Gangmaster • On 24 March 2006, a Chinese gangmaster, Lin Liang Ren, from Liverpool, was convicted of the manslaughter  of the 21 cockle pickers • With his girlfriend, Lin forged false cockling permits for all the cockle pickers • Lin Liang Ren had been aware of what was happening, but for his own reasons failed to alert the emergency services for some 50 minutes. • He was jailed for 12 years for manslaughter, and six for immigration offences • Mr Lin had been warned by one worker of the dangers of Warton Sands, the cockle beds off Morecambe Bay. In an earlier incident, several months previously, he had told same man he would leave their safety “to God”.
  29. 29. The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? The ‘Snakehead’ Smuggling Gang • Article from The Telegraph, 7th February 2004: • The desperate immigrants are charged £15,000 by criminal gangs to help them reach their destination and then accept a pittance for their labour once in the country. • Those who died in Morecambe last week are understood to have received as little as £1 for a nine-hour shift of cockle-picking. • The "snakeheads", as the gangs are known, provide them with safe houses along the way and forged documents.
  30. 30. The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? The Cockle Pickers • The young people did decide to go to the UK themselves. • Before they decided to go, many were told of the huge amounts of money they could earn by the gangs. In the film ‘Ghosts’, a potential migrant is shown a picture of a person with a BMW and told it is another migrant who has already gone to the UK. • Julia Hodson, Lancashire's Assistant Chief Constable, said she hoped the victims would not be "criminalised": "These people are the victims of despicable gangs. They have been through a dreadful trauma and we should remember that they all have families who don't know what has happened.” (The Telegraph, 7th February 2004)
  31. 31. The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? Supermarkets • Supermarkets try to keep the price they buy products for (from fishermen or farmers, for example) as low as possible, so they can make a bigger profit. • This means the people who supply supermarkets like the cockle buyers have to lower their costs, and the best way to do this is to cut the cost of employing people. • It means only people who are prepared to pay people BELOW the minimum wage can succeed . And that means gangmasters.
  32. 32. The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? UK Government • The year before the disaster, the immigration minister sent a letter to local Chinese restaurants (who used to employ irregular migrants) saying the owners would be put in prison for 2 years if they continued doing this. This meant the Chinese workers had to find alternative work… as Cockle Pickers on Morecambe Bay • During the trial of the Gangmaster, it was discovered that Officials from UK Immigration Services and the Department for Work and Pensions allowed Chinese Cockle Workers to work at Morecambe Bay – they turned a blind eye to it. • The group which represents the Families of the victims believes the government is responsible for the tragedy, saying: “We believe that the Morecambe Bay tragedy was caused by the lack of protection [for migrants] against exploitation.”
  33. 33. The Morecambe Bay Tragedy: Who is responsible? UK Customers 1. Shoppers in the UK want things cheap. 2. This means they need to be made cheaply. 3. So supermarkets pay their suppliers less 4. And their suppliers pay their workers even less… 5. This means only people who will accept little money will do the work – and these are usually migrants.
  34. 34. • GHOSTS by Nick Broomfield