Last Friday evening cleaners at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where called for a meeting by their contractors ISS. Minutes after the meeting began the building was raided by 45-50 police officers in riot gear. The officers proceeded to detain all the cleaning staff. Each had their nationality and immigration status checked. They were allowed no representation and provided with no translators where required. A trade union representative at the scene was refused access to the staff members.
Nine members of the staff where then taken into custody and face deportation.
According to a support group set up “those detained have been working at SOAS for many years; they have settled in London. Deportation will be devastating not only for the individuals involved but also the families. They are also our friends and fellow colleagues in the SOAS community.”
The group also claims they have confirmed at the time of writing 6 cleaners have already been deported.
Today students and other individuals occupied the university directors office in protest. They have made the following demands:
1. We call on the directorate to request the secretary of state to immediately release the detainees and to prevent the deportation of the three cleaners who are still in detention in the UK.
2. For the directorate to release a public statement condemning what has happened to the SOAS cleaners and calling for their immediate release and return.
3. To campaign for the return of the cleaners who have already been deported.
4. To bring all contract staff in house. SOAS should not use contractors, ISS or others.
5. To keep immigration officers from entering campus under ANY circumstances or other forms of collaboration with immigration or police. Universities are for education not for state violence and oppression.
6. A year’s wage as reparations for all detained and deported staff.
7. To hold accountable SOAS managers who were complicit in facilitating the raid and detention of the cleaners, refusing to aid a sick worker and a pregnant woman.
8. To reinstate Jose Stalin Bermudez, the SOAS UNISON branch chair.
9. To respect the right to organise in Trade Unions unimpeded.
10. To provide space and resources for a public meeting to build support for the SOAS 9 and other migrants, in education and beyond, affected by immigration control and racism.
11. Amnesty for all those involved.
The occupation was followed by a protest on campus with approximatly 100 people in attendance.