Friday, February 11, 2011

Immigration raids in South London

Catford Central picked up late last year on the story of the immigration raid on McDonald's in Catford. In November, the UK Border Agency raided the place and 'After checking the immigration status of staff, officers found that three people were working illegally – a woman from Cameroon and a man and woman from Turkey. The Cameroonian woman and the Turkish man have been detained pending their removal. The Turkish woman has been released on immigration bail and must report regularly to the agency while steps are taken to remove her from the UK'.

There was the usual triumphalist press release from the UKBA - 'Simon Shutte, who heads up the UK Border Agency’s Lewisham and Bromley local immigration team, said:
"Any employer who takes on a foreign national without permission to work in the UK is undermining law-abiding businesses and faces a big fine. This successful operation shows that our officers will find immigration offenders wherever they are in the Lewisham and Bromley area"'.

I don't see how anyone can take such pleasure in rounding up people just trying to make a living. Behind the rhetoric about fighting crime is the reality of people going out to work in the morning, leaving behind friends and loved ones, and then ending the day in a detention centre or on a forced flight out of the country. The fact that McDonalds was involved in this case just highlights another contradiction of the age of globalisation - capital can go where it likes, but labour can't. Or as the asylum-seeker narrator puts it in Chris Cleave's fine novel 'The Other Hand': 'Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl... A pound is free to travel to safety and we are free to watch it go. This is the human triumph. This is called, globalisation. A girl likes me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstiles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi'.

Another series of raids have occurred recently at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals in South London. Campaigners have issued the following statement:

'Where are the St Thomas’ disappeared? Where are our workmates?

Last month 72 workers disappeared from Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. They were part of the hospitals’ ancillary staff. They are migrants. Where did they disappear to? The economic crisis means their cheap labour is not as useful anymore – at least for the moment. So the UK Border Agency was called in to get rid of them. The NHS trust complied. The workers were either arrested or deported.

The workers who clean the hospital and feed the patients earn around the minimum wage. And due to the UKBA the workers are not even always paid for their hard work. Isn’t this slavery?

As hospital users, workers, trade unionists, migrants’ rights activists we cannot stay silent in the face of this brutality. Exactly when cuts and privatisation are threatening our public health service the exploitation of migrant labour increases. This is an attack on all workers.

We call for solidarity with the disappeared, with all migrants, with all workers, on Friday 18th February 5pm to 7pm outside St Thomas main entrance (Westminster Bridge Road London SE1 7EH). Called by the Cleaners Defence Committee, No One Is Illegal, Hands off my Workmate, Latin American Workers’ Association.

E-mail or call 07971719797 for details'.

Three of those arrested were jailed for obtaining money by fraud on the day after the raids took place in January 2011 - it's hardly fraud/theft to work and get paid for it. And what kind of legal representation did they have in this show trial - arrested one day, jailed the next?

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