From the Office of Jean Lambert
London’s Green Party Member of the European Parliament
Immediate release: 16 June 2009
Jean Lambert MEP has written to the Home Office today after it emerged that
five of the SOAS cleaners arrested on Friday 12 June were removed from the
UK over the weekend.
Jean has asked the Home Office to clarify the procedures that immigration
officers are expected to follow, after details of the detention and arrest
of the staff emerged.
Those close to the situation have explained that cleaners were summoned at
6.30am on Friday to attend what they were told was an ‘emergency staff
meeting’ – instead they found themselves in a closed space where over 40
immigration officers in full riot gear were waiting to arrest them. At the
detention centre, they were denied access to legal or union representation
and no interpreter was provided, so that many of them, as native Spanish
speakers, were unable to communicate. It is believed that immigration
officers were called in by ISS, the cleaning contractor, even though it has
employed many of these staff for years.
It has emerged that six cleaners have been removed and others could face
removal within days.
There are grave concerns about the health and wellbeing of those arrested:
it has emerged that one of the cleaners is six months pregnant, and another
is believed to have suffered a heart attack brought on by the ordeal. Many
of their families are unaware of their whereabouts.
On Friday Jean joined fellow Green Jenny Jones, member of the London
Assembly, in condemning the raid at SOAS . Last night, the London
Federation of Green Parties passed an emergency motion in support of the
workers. Today, [Tuesday 16 June] Jean said:
“This dawn raid was utterly deplorable – a sly, underhand action which seems
to have been calculated to cause maximum intimidation and distress. The
draconian scare tactics are all the more shameful now we learn of the
particular vulnerability of some of those arrested.
“Such raids raise fundamental questions about the status of migrant workers
and their right to dignified treatment which in this case was forcefully
denied. We need to know why and how this particular sequence of events came
about. That’s why I have written to the Home Office seeking clarification of
the procedures immigration officers are supposed to follow. I will ask ISS
and SOAS to clarify their role in this targeting of workers, many of whom
have been employed by the contractor for years. It is also imperative that
the families of those involved are told where their relatives are being
held, and remain fully informed as to their welfare and status.”
Jean also expressed solidarity with the students and activists currently
occupying SOAS in protest at the treatment the staff received from
“It is heartening to see the display of support from students and activists
at SOAS who are prepared to speak up for the rights of these workers and I
support their campaign.
“We cannot allow this raid to leave other migrant workers in London too
afraid to demand the basic employment and civil rights to which they are
entitled. We must redouble our support for those, like these workers, who
have campaigned for the rights of workers and the living wage across London.