Strawberry fields forever?

Bulgarian and Romanian student workers in the UK

in Focaal

This article is based on fieldwork conducted among Romanian and Bulgarian students working under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in the UK. It shows how a public discourse on the benefits of and for immigrant seasonal workers silences the voices of these workers. It also discusses how a hidden transcript of the student workers shows they are deeply frustrated about their exploitation in terms of wages, living conditions, and the fact that they have come to the UK on false promises of cultural exchange and learning. The confinement of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants—such as these student workers—to the unskilled and underpaid labor sector in the UK, which continues despite Romania and Bulgaria's recent accession to the EU, not only reproduces the dual labor market in the UK itself but it also reduces Romania and Bulgaria to 'second-hand' EU members states.

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