By Sadie Robinson
Students and workers at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have organised an emergency protest for 8.30am on Monday 15 June to defend cleaners at the site who are facing imminent threat of deportation.
Cleaners at SOAS were rounded up by immigration officials at an early morning meeting last Friday.
The raid follows campaigns by the cleaners to win union recognition and the London Living Wage.
Nine of the cleaners were subsequently held, including one woman who is six months pregnant. Their Unison union rep, Sandy Nicoll, said he was prevented from having any contact with them.
By Sunday three had already been deported. Others may be deported on Monday morning.
There is widespread anger and shock at the raid and at the speed with which the workers are being removed from Britain, with no opportunity to challenge the rulings or get legal advice. Many people saw the raid as the “kidnapping” of their fellow workers.
Some 200 students and workers protested outside SOAS on Friday evening. “I'm so ashamed of this institution today,” said Sandy. “It's not an accident that immigration raids are taking place in workplaces where cleaners have been organising to win better pay and conditions.
“London can't run without low-paid migrant workers to do work like cleaning – but if they try and fight for rights then they're out.
“Our union met today and unanimously passed a motion to back whatever campaign there is to stop the deportations of these cleaners. The cleaners are an important part of the union.”
Graham Dyer, the UCU union president at SOAS, was also at the protest. “I came in this morning to take part in a demonstration to support Stalin (a former worker at Soas who has been victimised by management after organising campaigns to improve workers' rights), only to find that the cleaning staff had been taken by immigration officials.
“The UCU is outraged. It's clear that management have been complicit in allowing immigration officials to come onto our campus.”
Sam, a student at SOAS, spoke poignantly to the crowd about the raid. “Just imagine what it's like,” he said. “You get up and go to work expecting to come home later and empty the washing that you've left in the machine, pick up your kids, etc. But no. Instead you get taken away to be deported.
“I'm almost speechless at management’s behaviour.”
Monday 15 June, 8.30am, on the steps if SOAS, off Malet Street, central London
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