Monday, 15 June 2009


From the Office of Jean Lambert MEP

Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London

Jean Lambert MEP and Jenny Jones AM have condemned the arrest of nine cleaning workers at SOAS this morning [Friday 12 June].

It is believed that the staff, mainly of Ecuadorian and possibly Colombian origin, have been arrested and are being processed for deportation.

A demonstration had been organised at SOAS this morning in support of Stalin Bermudez, the SOAS Unison branch chair, who was sacked earlier this year after a highly controversial disciplinary process. A Unison representative arrived at the college, just off Russell Square, at 7am this morning to discover a number of immigration control officers who had detained and were processing cleaning staff, and interrogating them about their status. The union received no prior warning.

The Green Party has pledged its full support for the staff, and Jean Lambert MEP is already in contact with the union, who are arranging legal representation. Unison and UCU were holding an emergency meeting to decide on subsequent action.
Jean Lambert, London’s Green Party MEP, said:

“The circumstances and aims of this raid are utterly deplorable. These cleaning staff have been treated like criminals, and the timing of the raid is particularly reprehensible – first thing in the morning at the end of the university term, with fewer people around to intervene. Luckily, the union has been on hand to help arrange legal assistance for those arrested, and it is also fortunate that the demonstration – ironically called to highlight existing concerns about the treatment of SOAS staff – meant that this raid was noticed and immediate steps could be taken.
“I reiterate and reinforce the support already pledged by the Green Party, and I will be monitoring this case and its outcomes closely. Today’s events highlight the need to find ways for people to regularise their status so that their vital contribution to London and society in general is recognised. It also makes the Strangers Into Citizens campaign, organised by London Citizens, still more urgent.”

Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the London Assembly, said:

"The effect of such ruthlessness on these workers and on their families is a cruel punishment. Workers have the right to be treated with courtesy and this raid is beneath contempt. Is this really how the Government tells them how to behave?"


Notes to Editors
Jean Lambert MEP is an expert on employment and asylum and immigration issues and is an active campaigner for the London Living Wage. On 1 May 2009 she addressed a May Day Living Wage rally at the Bloomsbury colleges in London. Stalin Bermudez also spoke at this demo.

Jenny Jones is a Green Party Member of the London Assembly. She sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority.


  1. Dear Brothers and Sisters _ I am writing to you as the branch secretary of the Bristol NUT and also as a member of the NUT Executive. We were appalled when we read what had happened to your fellow workers and wanted to send you a message of solidarity and support in the action you are taking. Your actions give the lead for the rest of us. Please let us know what else we can do to support you.
    In Solidarity
    Nina Franklin
    Bristol NUT

  2. Dear occupiers,

    Very best wishes from here in Edinburgh. SOAS has behaved disgracefully, and you have done a great job of shaming them. UK immigration policy needs to be challenged. We can expect UKBA to behave in this dispicable way. That SOAS worked with the government to deport its own workers because they had organised for fairer pay is shocking. That students have stood up to this is inspiring.

    Many thanks for your action and best wishes to you all, and to the SOAS cleaners.

    Adam Ramsay

  3. Dear Sir/Madam,

    I was recently shocked to read of the raid on cleaning and support staff by immigration officers on your premises. The way the raid was set up seems to have been sly and underhand and the way it was carried out unnecessarily brutal. Surely as a minimum right, detainees should have been allowed access to representation and translators and their basic needs such as food, water and medical attention met? It seems more than coincidence that these same workers have recently been an inspiration to many trapped in low wage jobs by organising and representing themselves through a trade union. This is also regarded as not only a moral but a legal right in this country and their campaign has brought to light the poor pay and conditions many people receive in this sector, particularly when jobs are contracted out to the lowest bidder, which inevitably puts a downward pressure on wages. I am disappointed that such a prestigious organisation as SOAS would tarnish it's reputation by indulging in such underhand behaviour. The fact that many of these people have worked at SOAS for a number of years suggests that you are happy to employ migrant workers without question while they work for very little. This is unacceptable. I call upon the management of SOAS (as a trade union member and concerned citizen) to do what they can to press for the return and reinstatement of the arrested workers and furthermore to give security to employees in the future by supporting their right to remain, to work, and to represent themselves in a union.

    Stephanie King,

  4. I suport the campaign to release these detainees. Please put an end to this unnecessarily violent behaviour on the part of the immigration officials and management of SOAS. That people are beign detained and interrogated without the presence of lawyers or interpreters where needed is abhorrent and definitely not the way to enforce justice in the UK.
    Ruth Hazlitt

  5. Dear all

    We were shocked and dismayed to hear about the terrible treatment meted out to the cleaning staff employed by ISS at SOAS campus on 12 June

    We extend the solidarity greetings of our Branch officers, our Branch Committee and our whole branch.

    We are aware that some of your comrades have already been deported including a woman who was six months pregnant.

    We condemn and deplore this insensitive and inhumane treatment and if there is anything our branch can do to offer concrete help please contact me as soon as possible

    Comradely solidarity Greetings

    Mike Calvert
    Deputy Branch Secretary
    Islington UNISON Local Government Branch

  6. Hello,

    I am emailing to show my support for the SOAS workers who have recently been the victim of an immigration raid

    Best wishes,

    Vino Sangarapillai
    UNISON member

  7. The arrest and subsequent deportation of SOAS cleaners is a disgrace and should be condemned by the trade union movement.

    It is an attempt to create a permanent pool of cheap labour the state should not be allowed to get away with this act of intimidation. Congratulations to Students and their allies at SOAS for occupying against this despicable act.

    On behalf of City and Islington UCU I would like to offer our support for your timely action.

    It is important that we defend all workers and their jobs, an injury to one is an injury to all.


    Andy Strouthous

    Secretary City and Islington Camden Road UCU