Defend Yahya Al-Faifi

24th January 2009

Yahya Al-Faifi, an exiled Saudi trade unionist, and his family are facing deportation into the hands of the Saudi regime by the Home Office.

Yahya has appealed against the deportations and is awaiting the results of the tribunal. But if the appeal fails the decision will still rest with the Home Secretary. So the campaign to defend Yahya and his family will have to be stepped up.

Yahya was sacked by BAe in Saudi Arabia for his part in leading a successful struggle in 2002 to defend workers at BAe from the termination of their contracts and the imposition of new contracts with a 40% cut in pay. 2,000 workers won their contracts back except for Yahya and two other workers who were fired. Yahya won his case at an employment tribunal and £30,000 compensation. But he continued to fight for re-instatement and for trade union rights and his case became a national issue in Saudi Arabia before being forced to flee the country in 2004.

The Home Office alleges that his fight is with his ex-employer, BAe, and not the Saudi government. But at his appeal Yahya produced a letter from BAe informing him that they had not reinstated him under orders from the Saudi government. The Saudi regime is one of the most repressive in the world.

At the appeal hearing the Home Office representative tried to portray Yahya as a perpetual moaner who had nothing to fear from the Saudi regime. The record of abduction, torture and murder by the Saudi regime is well known but incredibly she claimed that Yahya had only received a threat "to cut out his tongue".

Ramon Corria testified on behalf of the Communication Workers Union at the appeal at Yahya's campaigning work for Saudi Arabian trade unionism in Britain.

Already significant support for Yahya has come in from the labour movement. Yahya's union, the Communications Union, has given its full support to his campaign. The PCS NEC and South Wales NUM have backed him. The Wales TUC has promised to take up his case with the Welsh secretary. The TUC is circulating all trades councils with his case and dozens of trade union branches are supporting him. Two Welsh Assembly members, Leanne Woods and Jeff Cuthbert, have written to the Home Secretary to call for Yahya's application for asylum to be accepted.

But the growing tide of support for Yahya must urgently be turned into real pressure on the Home Secretary to reconsider. There are some strong indications that there has been interference by the Foreign Office in the case. A Home Office official has written "restricted case" on the front page of Yahya's bundle of documents. Yahya has been unable to find what is restricted and by who. The role of the Foreign Office in assisting the Saudi regime receive bribes from BAe is well known.

The campaign is planning a day of action in February to defend Yahya and his family and is calling upon the British trade union movement to stand up for one of its international brothers.

When trade unionism was in its infancy in Britain the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported to Australia. Now the British government is attempting to deport one of Saudi Arabia's trade union martyrs back to the despotic regime. It must be resisted.

Dave Reid
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