12 June 2009
Jean Lambert MEP and Jenny Jones AM have condemned the arrest of nine cleaning workers at SOAS this morning. It is believed that the staff, mainly of Ecuadorian and possibly Colombian origin, have been arrested and are being processed for deportation.
A demonstration had been organised at SOAS this morning in support of Stalin Bermudez, the SOAS Unison branch chair, who was sacked earlier this year after a highly controversial disciplinary process. A Unison representative arrived at the college, just off Russell Square, at 7am this morning to discover a number of immigration control officers who had detained and were processing cleaning staff, and interrogating them about their status. The union received no prior warning.
The Green Party has pledged its full support for the staff, and Jean Lambert MEP is already in contact with the union, who are arranging legal representation. Unison and UCU were holding an emergency meeting to decide on subsequent action.
Jean Lambert, London's Green Party MEP, said:
"The circumstances and aims of this raid are utterly deplorable. These cleaning staff have been treated like criminals, and the timing of the raid is particularly reprehensible - first thing in the morning at the end of the university term, with fewer people around to intervene. Luckily, the union has been on hand to help arrange legal assistance for those arrested, and it is also fortunate that the demonstration - ironically called to highlight existing concerns about the treatment of SOAS staff - meant that this raid was noticed and immediate steps could be taken."
"I reiterate and reinforce the support already pledged by the Green Party, and I will be monitoring this case and its outcomes closely. Today's events highlight the need to find ways for people to regularise their status so that their vital contribution to London and society in general is recognised. It also makes the Strangers Into Citizens campaign, organised by London Citizens, still more urgent."
Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the London Assembly, said:
"The effect of such ruthlessness on these workers and on their families is a cruel punishment. Workers have the right to be treated with courtesy and this raid is beneath contempt. Is this really how the Government tells them
how to behave?"
Notes to Editors:
Jean Lambert MEP is an expert on employment and asylum and immigration issues and is an active campaigner for the London Living Wage. On 1 May 2009, she addressed a May Day Living Wage rally at the Bloomsbury colleges in London. Stalin Bermudez also spoke at this demo.
Jenny Jones is a Green Party Member of the London Assembly. She sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority.
For more details of the London Citizens Strangers Into Citizens campaign, visit: http://www.strangersintocitizens.org.uk/
For a report on the occupation, on 15 June, of the office of the director of SOAS, visit: http://jimjay.blogspot.com/2009/06/soas-occupation-chaos-better-virtue.html.
For the blog of the occupation, please see: http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com/.