Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 16:43 UK

College cleaner protest continues

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Student protest SOAS
Students are protesting against the raid on cleaners working illegally

Students in London staging an occupation against the deportation of cleaners by immigration authorities have been served an injunction.

Students at the School of Oriental and African Studies are in negotiations with the university about their sit-in.

The occupation is a response to an immigration raid on Friday after which six migrant worker cleaners have been deported and two held in custody.

The UK Borders Agency says it will not tolerate illegal working.

Students are demanding the return of the deported cleaners and a ban on such immigration raids on campus.

The timing of the immigration detentions and the rapid deportation has been described as "outrageous" by Green MEP, Jean Lambert.

'Deplorable'

Cleaners at the university had been involved in a campaign over pay and there had been recent protests calling for the reinstatement of a cleaners' union leader.

The cleaners were employed by a contract company, ISS, which strongly denies any connection between such a campaign over pay and last week's immigration raid.

A spokesman for the company says that it is legally obliged to ensure that staff are entitled to work in the UK. Employers face large fines if they are found to be employing illegal workers, he said.

It is believed that the cleaners have been deported to countries in South America and Ms Lambert wants to know if they were able to make any contact with friends or family in London before their removal.

"The circumstances and aims of this raid are utterly deplorable," says Ms Lambert.

But the UK Border Agency says that it needs to prevent such illegal employment by migrant workers.

"We will not tolerate illegal working. It leads to the exploitation of illegal immigrants who are frequently denied the minimum wage or forced to risk dangerous working conditions and undercutting the minimum wage."

The university said it was "legally obliged to co-operate fully with the authorities".

"We understand this must have been distressing for those involved and indeed our own colleagues. However we have been informed that the checks were carried out in a sympathetic manner," said a university spokeswoman.

Students taking part in the occupation have been supported by a number of trade unions and politicians.

"The message is that they are happy to employ migrant labour on poverty wages, but if you complain they will send you back home. It is absolutely shameful," said Labour MP John McDonnell.



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