Wednesday, June 17, 2009
1. Sign the online petition: http://www.gopetition.co.uk/
2. We have only hours to get the message to Alan Johnson & Phil Woolas, who have the power to intervene and stop the deportations. Please sign it, or write your own similar letter, and circulate to as many people who will do the same.
Subject: For the urgent attention of Alan Johnson
Subject: For the urgent attention of Phil Woolas
Post the letter to:
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
020 7035 4848 (09:00-17:00 Mon-Fri). Fax: 020 7035 474
To Rt Honourable Minister of State, Phil Woolas
To Rt Honourable Home sectary, Alan Johnson
We are writing to ask you to grant leave to remain, with the right to work, to the SOAS cleaners, Marina Silva, who has claimed asylum and Rosa de Perez who are currently being held in Yarlswood detention centre. We are deeply concerned that five of their colleagues were deported within 48 hours of the raids, without any chance to put their case for being granted the right to stay and in come cases breaking up family relationships.
Marina and Rosa are two of the nine cleaners who were arrested in a raid by around 40 officers of the Border Agency on Friday 12th June 2009, on campus at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). They are charged with overstaying visas—but both women have had good reasons to have entered the UK and an urgent need to work to support themselves and their families. Both have worked hard for ISS, a company which is notorious for exploiting migrant labour, for low wages.
Marina is sixty three years old. She is from Bolovia and her husband was killed in an honour killing after which she was threatened and harassed until she was forced to leave her home. She has been living in the UK for several years and has made a life here. She is ill and was due a hospital appointment on the day of the raid. She has now made an application to stay to be safe and to live in dignity in the UK. These women are not criminals, they are hard working people on low pay who have worked to pay their bills and support their family in the dirty and undignified job as a cleaner. We believe that they should not be treated as criminals.
While Rosa has not sought to resist removal, she will be returned to extreme poverty in Nicaragua and will be unable to support her family—having four children who in the economic crisis of her home country have no other means of support. She will be unemployed when returned. She is in urgent need of the compassion to allow her, now she is here, the ability to stay and to work to support her children and we would ask for a work permit to allow her to continue to work, but in dignity.
While we recognize that their overstay was unlawful, the manner of their detainment at SOAS was shockingly aggressive, disproportionate, deceiving and unnecessary. The cleaning company which employs the cleaners, ISS, had collaborated with the UK Border Agency to arrest the workers through the pretence of an “emergency staff meeting” at 6.30am on Friday 12th June. Once 40 officers, dressed in riot gear, were hidden around the meeting and managers barred exit during the first part of the meeting before the immigration officers pounced on workers. The SOAS campus was sealed off while workers were locked in a room, and then questioned one by one in an adjacent room. Union representatives trying to bring water and aid to their members—including a woman more than six months pregnant—were denied access and not allowed to provide any legal aid for their members, who should have had the right to a solicitor.
We are very concerned about these workers who were employed by ISS, a company which had just been forced to grant union recognition and to pay the London Living Wage to its cleaners working in SOAS. We are especially concerned that the raid took place on the very morning on which cleaners were to rally in support of their sacked UNISON trade union branch chair, who was also an ISS employee. Rosa and Maria are just two of the thousands of migrant workers, refugee and asylum seekers who make a valuable contribution to our society. Like so many who work unsocial hours for low pay, they are making a valuable contribution to society, and they should not be punished and hunted like criminals for this.
We are deeply concerned at what appears to be BIA officials being used to discipline workers in the process of unionising and appeal for permission to stay and work to be granted to the SOAS workers. All of these people are working and supporting themselves as well as paying taxes and national insurance contributions. You will be aware of the research which shows the greater than average economic contribution of working migrants who are single and without dependents in the UK.
We therefore urge you to:
--Release Marina and Rosa on bail immediately and give consideration to our appeal for a grant of leave to remain to these workers.
-- In Marina’s case to grant humanitarian protection. In Rosa’s case to grant a work visa.
--to allow those SOAS cleaners who have already been deported to renter the country for reasons of family reunion and to work.
--to make clear that no person should be raided and held in such a way in the future, without water, medicine or the right to be seen by representatives wishing to provide legal assistance.
We would welcome an urgent response as these workers have only hours before removal directions. We look forward to hearing from you on the matters we have raised above.
3. Ring your MP and express your concern for these individuals and ask them to pass on the message to Phil Woolas. You can get your MPs details from www.theyworkforyou.com or ring 020 7219 3000 and ask for their office. Your Mp can ask a question about this or can lay down an early day motion.
4. Fax/email a copy to your own MP and ask that they pass this on urgently to Phil Woolas.
5. Ask your trade union branch/faith group/community association etc to also take action.
Update: as the students have declared victory, there is to be a rally tomorrow at 6pm in SOAS, to celebrate, take stock, and remind management that they are still under scrutiny. See their blog here.