Students fight for cleaners
STUDENTS at the University of London’s School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) last week began an occupation of university buildings in protest at an immigration service raid and the arrest, pending deportation of a number of the cleaning staff.
The students claim the raid is a repressive reaction for recent trade union activity.
Early last Friday morning all the cleaning staff were summoned to a meeting in a hall by the employers, ISS. When they had gathered doors were locked and immigration officers and police wearing riot gear entered and detained all the workers, including one young pregnant woman.
They were held in the hall and one-by-one taken to a side room where their immigration status was checked. They were allowed no legal or union representation; many spoke only Spanish but there were no interpreters. A union officer who tried to get in to advise and represent the workers was barred.
A number were arrested and nine have already been deported.
The students are demanding that SOAS director Paul Webley, write to the Home Secretary calling for amnesty for the remaining detainees.
One student said: “Universities should be sanctuaries: places free of violence and aggression. SOAS’s reputation as a university has been tainted today”.
Over 20 academics from the university also signed a statement denouncing the School’s management for facilitating the Border Control Agency’s work.
“It is a total disgrace that the raid took place at an institution actively recruiting students from around the world on the basis of its reputation as a leading centre for the study of global justice, human rights and racial tolerance,” it said.
The recent Living Wage campaign and protests over the controversial sacking of cleaner and union activist Jose Stalin Bermudez, are cited by protestors as motivation for the deportations.
Labour MP John McDonnell said “As living wage campaigns are building in strength, we are increasingly seeing the use of immigration statuses to attack workers fighting against poverty wages and break trade union organising.
“The message is that they are happy to employ migrant labour on poverty wages, but if you complain they will send you back home. It is absolutely shameful.”
The university said that it was “legally obliged to co-operate fully with the authorities”.
The company ISS Cleaning and Hygiene Services, SOAS’s cleaning contractor has been accused of using immigration law to keep wages low after strikes by its employees working on tube trains were also followed by deportation of key activists. But ISS strongly denied a link between unionisation and the raids.
Police accused of torture
THE METROPOLITAN Police has suspended or placed on restricted duties six officers after allegations that they tortured suspected drug dealers after a police raid.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the Enfield-based officers' conduct, according to Scotland Yard.
The alleged offences are said to have taken place in the borough during two drugs raids on 4th November last year.
The Met said the allegations were serious and raised "real concern". But they said they could not comment on the exact nature of the complaints.
But some national newspapers are reporting that the officers used water torture techniques such as ducking a suspect's head under water.