We are writing to express our solidarity with the SOAS cleaners who were forcibly detained by the Immigration and Border Police at the School on 12 June, and to denounce the School authorities for facilitating this outrageous assault on a vulnerable group of migrant workers who dared to fight back.
Many of us are former and current PhD students and staff at SOAS or affiliated with SOAS, researching and teaching in the field of Development Studies.
We note that the SOAS cleaners were one of the first groups of university cleaners to win union recognition in a notoriously exploitative industry that runs on cheap labour drawn from the poorest parts of the planet, and believe that the SOAS immigration raid was intended to intimidate other agency workers struggling for the right of union representation and decent living conditions. That this should happen on the premises of a British university is shameful enough. But 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.
We note too that this raid came at a time when the government is forcing university teachers to spy on the immigration status of their students and colleagues, effectively turning us into an arm of the UK Borders Agency. SOAS should be actively resisting the Government’s racist immigration policy, not using the most brutal side of it to enforce labour discipline. Clearly a section of the SOAS management cannot escape the School’s colonial past.
We finally note that the aggressive outsourcing strategy, which allowed a company like ISS to take over the School’s cleaning functions, is a consequence of the wider marketisation of Higher Education that has turned students into ‘consumers’, academic research into an exercise in market competition, and junior academics into low-paid, casualised and insecure teaching fodder. We therefore see the SOAS cleaner’s fight as our fight and stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
We demand that the deportations are halted, the affected cleaners reinstated, cleaning and all other outsourced functions bought back in house, and the SOAS managers responsible for this vicious attack on union and immigrant rights, which has left an indelible stain on the whole School’s reputation, dismissed.
Gavin Capps, Former PhD student, SOAS and HMWDRS (Historical Materialism World Development Research Seminar Group)
Ben Selwyn, Lecturer, Sussex University and HMWDRS
Alessandra Mezzadri, Lecturer, SOAS and HMWDRS
Satoshi Miyamura, Lecturer, SOAS and HMWDRS
Liam Campling, PhD Candidate, SOAS and HMWDRS
Demet Dinler, Teaching Fellow, SOAS and HMWDRS
Graham Dyer, Lecturer, SOAS
David Seddon, Former Lecturer at SOAS, currently Professorial Fellow at the UEA
Saurabh Gupta, Teaching Fellow, SOAS
Saloni Gupta, Teaching Fellow, SOAS
Dave Rampton, Teaching Fellow, SOAS
Tony Kahane, Teaching Fellow, SOAS
Giuseppe Caruso, Teaching Fellow, SOAS
Gonzalo Pozo-Martin, Teaching Fellow, SOAS
Peter Thomas, Editor, Historical Materialism, SOAS
Sebastian Budgen, Editor, Historical Materialism, SOAS
Antigoni Memou, Editor, Historical Materialism, SOAS
Robert Knox, Editor, Historical Materialism, SOAS
Alf Nilsen, Lecturer, University of Bergen
Patrick Bond, Senior Professor, University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies, Durban, South Africa
Caroline O’Reilly, Former SOAS student, Johannesburg
Leo Zeilig, Lecturer, Former SOAS student, University of Witswatersrand, South Africa
Miles Larmer, Lecturer, University of Sheffield
Peter Dwyer, Ruskin College, Oxford