Fears are growing for the 72 immigrant workers detained by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) at Guy and St Thomas’ Hospital, London in Februrary. Very little is known of the whereabouts of the 72 disappeared, who had been contracted to work as ancillary staff in the hospital by Reed temp agency.
The only definitive update to emerge since the raid is that three of them have pleaded guilty to ‘fraud’, a charge levied against them for collecting their ‘illegal’ wages from the hospital (as if cleaning toilets for minimum wage wasn’t bad enough).
A demonstration was called by the Latin American Workers Association outside the hospital a couple of weeks later, but still no word was forthcoming on the whereabouts of the 72. The raid sets a worrying precedent, being, as it was, a joint operation between UKBA and the Metropolitan Police with the collaboration of the NHS Counter-Fraud Service and Guy and St Thomas’ NHS Trust itself.
The NHS bosses’ silent cooperation with one of the British state’s most ruthless entities will be especially bitter for the 72 and their families, who are now unable to even locate their loved ones, now that the British state has deemed them surplus to requirement and therefore ready to be returned to their countries of origin.
This follows on from an earlier raid in Nov 2010 on a McDonalds in Catford, South East London, in which local UKBA agents trumpeted the deportation of ‘illegal’ workers as ‘successful’. In June 2009, a UKBA raid at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in collaboration with SOAS management provoked an angry student occupation of management offices.
Campaigners point out that the precarious situation of migrant workers is no coincidence, but is part of wider cutbacks. “Exactly when cuts and privatisation are threatening our public health service the exploitation of migrant labour increases. This is an attack on all workers.”