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Gibraltar Migrant Workers: Costs

Volume 548: debated on Wednesday 14 July 1993

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2.46 p.m.

What assistance they are giving to the Government of Gibraltar to help reduce any problems involving migrant labour from Morocco.

My Lords, we support the Government of Gibraltar in their attempts to find a solution to this difficult matter. We have offered advice on various aspects and have been involved in contacts with the Government of Morocco.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does she agree that when Her Majesty's Government negotiated with the Moroccan Government over the arrival of Moroccan workers as a result of the withdrawal of Spanish labour, Her Majesty's Government then had a policy of providing financial support? Why not now? On its own the Gibraltar economy cannot possibly meet all the claims for assistance from Moroccan workers.

My Lords, as the Chief Minister has made clear, Moroccans have received their full entitlement under Gibraltar law. There is no question of their being offered a refund of their payments. Examples from a recent analysis of payments made to Moroccans reveal that in one instance a man who died in 1977 had paid a total of £124.84 in contributions, and his widow has since received benefits totalling £31,734.12. Pensions earned under Gibraltar arrangements are paid to Moroccan workers via bank transfers upon their return to Morocco.

My Lords, can my noble friend give any idea of the number of the migrant labour force in Gibraltar who have been affected by the closure of Her Majesty's dockyard there?

My Lords, several hundred people have been involved, not only as a result of the closure of the dockyard but also of the PSA, but only seven of them are liable for repatriation at the moment.

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that many Moroccan workers have been in Gibraltar for nearly 25 years, and that some of them are now being deported as a result of becoming unemployed merely because preference is given to EC nationals? Will she say how many have been deported in the past year and whether those who are threatened with deportation have any rights of appeal?

My Lords, on a recent visit representatives of the Department of Employment found no evidence that a "Gibraltarians first" policy was being implemented by the Employment and Training Board of Gibraltar, which is responsible for job replacements. Workers of any nationality who are legally resident have the right to the same facilities at the Employment and Training Board used by Gibraltarians. In all job applications the overriding factor for the board is the wish of the employer. I am afraid that I did not catch the second question which the noble Baroness asked.

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say how many Moroccan workers were deported last year? Do those threatened with deportation have a right of appeal? I should like an answer in particular to my last question.

My Lords, none was deported last year. There would be no question of an appeal because the agreement was reached between the Moroccan and Gibraltar governments. As regards repatriation, the trouble is that the Transport and General Workers Union has taken the passports of six of the seven workers who are faced with repatriation under the terms agreed by the Moroccan Government.

My Lords, bearing in mind that more than 300 Moroccan workers have been unemployed for more than six months, what assistance would Her Majesty's Government consider giving in the event of Article 41 of the 1976 EC Morocco Co-operation Agreement being applicable to Gibraltar in the field of social security? The agreement was not brought to the notice of the Gibraltar Government before it was entered into.

My Lords, employment and social security matters, which are at the crux of this issue, are the responsibility of the Government of Gibraltar. We support the approach of the Gibraltar Government. There was last year an agreement to begin talks on updating the EC Morocco Co-operation Agreement. The Commission has produced a draft which is currently under discussion. Obviously, I cannot go into details at this stage.