From prison ship to labour camp – interstitial employment, coming to a port near you

Paul Raven @ 23-02-2009

prison-ship labour campThere’s been a labour dispute here in the UK regarding European companies shipping in workers from their native nations rather than hiring locally for UK-based contracts; given the current state of the economy, it’s caused a fair amount of angry words and governmental filibustering on all sides. [image via Financial Times]

Subtopia looks beyond the obvious headlines, however, and examines the former prison-ships being used to house the immigrant workers – partly to keep them safe from angry locals, but perhaps also subliminally as a reminder of their menial economic status:

While UK laborers bark about equal opportunity and contract fairness (and perhaps spew some racist vitriol in the process) there is the greater undercurrent of geo-economic exploitation here bobbing spaces of injustice on the surface. Particularly eerie to me in this picture is the spatial intermixing of incarceration and migrant labor, and how architecturally speaking the surplus of global capital’s industrial bodies are rounded up at sea inside the old remains of an overcrowded penal system, once oceanic jails now filled with a new kind of transient inmate, a new kind of quasi-prison labor force.

The bulk shipping of cheap outsourced labour isn’t nice for the local population, but what the mainstream media here in the UK is skipping over is how desperate the immigrants must be for work that they’ll put up with such deeply unpleasant conditions. This is the nasty underbelly of corporate globalism at work, and I expect we’ll see a lot more of it as the economic power of nation-states declines and the corporations move into their place.

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