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Friday, December 9, 2016
East Enders call for migrant workers to be given citizenship rights
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¬†The UK's largest and most diverse citizens' organisation is calling on government to give citizen status to thousands of "irregular" migrants working in London. TELCO, the East London-based alliance of more than 40 churches, mosques, trade unions and community groups, will issue the call at a colourful and dramatic gathering in Bethnal Green this evening. The "Strangers into Citizens" campaign is asking for migrant workers who meet certain eligibility criteria ≠ proficiency in English, community ties, no criminal record ≠ to be offered a two-year "pathway to citizenship" as the best means of securing their rights to a living wage. The campaign is being launched at TELCO's tenth anniversary celebrations at York Hall, Bethnal Green. More than a thousand people from across East London's diverse communities will pack the hall to hear messages of support and congratulations from Tony Blair, David Cameron, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Among dozens of invited guests ≠ including MPs, Councillors and national business and religious leaders - will be Sir John Bond, one of the world's most respected bankers. As a result of Sir John's contact with TELCO - following its three-year campaign on behalf of cleaners at Canary Wharf ≠ the bank now pays many of its cleaners a Living Wage. The "Living Wage" for London ≠ higher than the minimum wage ≠ has been one of TELCO's most successful campaigns: London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, recently fixed the new Living Wage rate at £7.05 for the capital. TELCO's campaign has brought thousands of migrant workers out of poverty. During the Assembly 'ghosts' of East London's past will appear to hold today's East Londoners to account for their commitment to justice. The ghosts include the suffragette, Sylvia Pankhurst; Cardinal Manning, who brokered the Great Dock Strike of 1886; the "match Girls" Annie Besant and Sally O'Brien; and George Lansbury, the Poplar Councillor imprisoned for refusing to implement a tax on the poor of East London. Also holding the Assembly to account will be the "spirits" of migrants past and present who have sought and found refuge in east London over the centuries ≠ among them a Spanish Jew fleeing the Inquisition, an Irish family fleeing the famine, Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka in the 1970s, and Bangladeshis escaping poverty. The "Strangers into Citizens" regularisation campaign comes directly out of TELCO's attempts to enforce the Living Wage for the capital's cleaners. Irregular migrants are often exploited ≠ paid less than the minimum wage, and threatened with exposure if they complain. TELCO's leader Adewale Adenekan said: "Many undocumented migrants have jobs, families and children in school. They are not drunks, criminals or scroungers. But their illegal status means that many exist on wages below subsistence level, they cannot access basic services and they live under the shadow of illegality." TELCO, which is backed by community groups, churches, mosques, trades unions and businesses, is calling for a one-off regularisation which it says would benefit the Exchequer to the tune of £1 billion in fresh tax revenues. The orgaisation says the Government admits that more than 500,000 "illegal" migrants cannot be deported. TELCO believes that they should not be condemned to live in the dark. Adenekan said TELCO member communities would act as sponsors or referees for migrants eligible for consideration as citizens. For more information see: http://www.telcocitizens.org.uk/
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