Update: Occupation ends with (partial) success.
Students and staff at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), along with anti-deportation campaigners, have occupied the School's main building in protest at the management's and immigration authorities' attack on migrant workers at the School. Nine cleaners were detained on Friday, 12th June, in an orchestrated dawn raid in which the management and cleaning contractor ISS reportedly played a 'sickening' role [details].
Five of the nine have already been deported, with the others held in detention pending their deportation. A well-attended rally was held on Monday, 15th June, outside the building [pictures]. Another rally and demonstration were held on Tuesday [pictures | update].
Campaigners believe the raid was the management's 'revenge' against the cleaners' successful campaign, Justice for Cleaners, which saw them winning the London living wage and trade union representation.
The occupiers have issued a list of demands to the SOAS management, which included:
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.
Despite the threat of eviction at 1:30p.m. today, the occupiers have persuaded management to enter into negotiations, and hope to achieve the following in writing tomorrow:
- A letter to the Secretary of State from the Directorate requiring exceptional leave to remain for the cleaners still in the country
- A public statement with a commitment not to facilitate any future raids
- A meeting of the Governing Body to discuss the end of ISS's contract at SOAS
- Amnesty for all involved
The atmosphere at SOAS is good, as are the numbers. Please come along and support the occupiers!
Rally scheduled for tomorrow at midday. Details at this address.