Talking about ‘labour camps’ in post-2004 Europe: lived experiences of work, transnational mobility and exploitation among Central Eastern European Migrants
The eastern enlargement of the European Union, and the freedom of movement of people associated with it, has been treated as one of the major steps in promoting the rights of Central Eastern Europeans. In this view, Central Eastern European workers should be able to exercise new mobility rights and secure dignified, legal employment in the enlarged European Union. The data presented in this paper casts doubt on this benign vision of intra-European mobility and the work experiences related to it. The analysis focuses on one workplace – a repackaging plant in the North of England. It has been described by interviewed workers as a ‘labour camp’, a notion which invokes memories of forced labour migration in Central Eastern Europe, carried out by 20th century totalitarian regimes. The discussion examines workplace experiences, explores workers narratives and, finally, offers workers’ testimonies against the official EU narrative of freedom of movement of labour.