Protest deportation of cleaners; feminist poet among those denied artist visas to UK

// 14 July 2009

A protest is planned in London this Friday lunchtime, in support of SOAS cleaners – nine cleaners were seized in an immigration raid shortly after they won union recognition and a pay raise to the level of the London living wage.

HarpyMarx says:

Show your solidarity and support these cleaners at the next demonstration in front of Willis building, for the reinstatement of the already sacked cleaners, including their UNITE rep and against the immigration raids.

Friday 17 July 1 p.m. in front of Willis Building, 51 Lime street or at 12:30 in Liverpool street station in front of Macdonalds.

According to the Justice for SOAS cleaners blog:

One of the UNISON members picked up, who was traumatised by the clandestine nature of the raid and the appearance of around 40 officers in full body armour, arrived back in Bogota, 48 hours after the raid, wearing the same clothes she was arrested in and with 75pence in her pocket. Disorientated and distressed, she was simply dumped in Bogota—hundreds of miles from her home town without any concern as to how she could get back to her family.

Another of the nine, Rosa Perez, was deported on Tuesday 30th without being given the 72 hours notice that is required—she had no chance to say goodbye to workmates who had been visiting her in detention or to receive the collections that SOAS staff had been making to help with her return.

One of the nine, Marina Silva, remains in detention at Yarlswood—where detainees are on hunger strikes and other forms of protest because of the appalling conditions and the decision to freeze their bank accounts, which contain all the wages earned at hard jobs like cleaning or fruit picking. Marina, who is 63, has claimed asylum because her husband was murdered in an honour killing at home and she was threatened until she left. Having lost the breadwinner and in fear, Marina eventually came to live and work in the UK a few years ago. She is very frightened in Yarlswood where her detention disrupted medical tests.

Meanwhile, in another ‘illustrative’ example of our immigration authorities at work, Indonesian feminist poet Dorothea Rosa Herliany is among those denied a visa to the UK, where she was meant to appear at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, the Guardian reports.

Eventually the UK Borders Agency was persuaded to issue a visa the day after she was due to appear:

Currently resident for a short time in Germany, she received this crushingly dim response to her application for a visa.

“You have provided an invitation to participate in the Ledbury Poetry Festival in the UK, however you have failed to provide any documents showing the funds available to you or demonstrating your current circumstances in Germany. I note that you only arrived in Germany in April 09, and have limited leave to remain until 30/07/09. I am therefore not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you are a genuine visitor, that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.”

The festival only learned about the ban two weeks ago and did not have the time to make representations on her behalf. In the event she was given a visa for the day after she was due to appear. The only possible course for Woolas and the UK Borders Agency is to make an apology to Herliany and to the people who attend the festival, but we shouldn’t hold our breath because there is clearly some kind of campaign against poets with strange sounding names and of Muslim origin who want to come to this country.

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