Saturday, February 04, 2006

Polish cockles mafia in UK

Some Poles are falling into dangerous jobs in their search for the good life in the UK.

Two years tomorrow, 18 Chinese immigrants drowned when poaching shellfish off the English coast.

Last week a gang of Polish workers had to be rescued – on two different occasions - off the coast of Solway Firth in Scotland, digging for cockles in the sands when the tide cut them off from the shore.

At night, when the tide is low, immigrant workers go out with buckets – sometimes as much as eight miles from the shore line, and look for cockles.

Sometimes, however, the cocklers get trapped by the returning tide. The BBC:

South of Scotland MSP Mr Morgan said he fears an incident where many lives could be lost.

He said: "The potential dangers of the upper Solway cannot be overstated when we are talking about large numbers of people undertaking such operations miles from the shore in the middle of the night.

"Some of the gangs have ventured as much as eight miles offshore.

"Add to that the treacherous conditions underfoot and the ease with which someone who does not know the area could lose their bearings in the dark, as well as the notorious tides and we have without doubt a recipe for disaster."

But Poles – who have gone to Britain but not found a decent job – are also involved in twenty different gangs operating in the same area of Morecambe, England, where the Chinese cocklers died two years ago.

Polish gang masters team up with local ‘business people’ and recruit from the new, and out of work, community. Open Democracy reports:

Each day on Knott End and Pilling Sands, where the bay's flatness guarantees fast tides, two hundred Polish workers can be seen working in pairs. Many of them work two exhausting shifts a day, getting paid £10 per 25-kilo-bucket by the Polish gangmasters.

The cockles are sold for 1,000 pounds a tonne, processed in Wales, packaged in Holland and then retailed mainly in Spain and…Poland.