Canada’s temporary foreign worker programmes are a “breeding ground” for modern forms of slavery, a United Nations expert has warned, about a year after Jamaican farmworkers in the province of Ontario denounced their mistreatment.

The UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said on Wednesday that he was “deeply disturbed by the accounts of exploitation and abuse shared” with him by migrant workers during a two-week fact-finding mission to Canada.

“Employer-specific work permit regimes, including certain Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWPs), make migrant workers vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery, as they cannot report abuses without fear of deportation,” Obokata said.

His comments come after a group of Jamaican farmworkers sent a letter to the country’s labour minister in August of last year likening their treatment on two Ontario farms to “systematic slavery”.