Saudi trade unionist faces deportation

Yahya al Faifi, a very brave and self-sacrificing trade unionist – and a deeply committed socialist – is facing deportation back to a tyranny in Saudi Arabia that regularly tortures and "disappears" dissidents. On 12 February, he received a rejection letter for his appeal against the refusal of his asylum claim appeal. Now, he and his family are in imminent danger of deportation from Britain.

The trade union movement is organising a day of action for Yahya on Thursday, 19 February. There will be a lobby of the Home Secretary in Queen Anne’s Gate in Whitehall at 2:00pm. A number of prominent trade unionists and MPs will be attending.

Supporters are calling for protests/lobbies outside British Embassies and Consulates around the world on the same day

So far, Yahya has the support of Ann Clwyd, MP; Jeff Cuthbert, AM; Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communications Workers Union; Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (that organises the Civil Service); Wayne Thomas, General Secretary of South Wales NUM; the Executive of the National Union of Journalists in Wales; the Executive of the University and College Lecturers Union in Wales; the Merseyside Port Shop Stewards and many other trade union bodies. In 2006, Wales TUC passed a motion supporting Yahya's campaign for Saudi Arabian trade union rights. Yahya is a member of the Communications Workers Union in Britain and an honourary member of the National Union of Mineworkers.

A fighter for Saudi Arabian Trade Union Rights

Yahya worked for BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia. When the company announced that they were cutting the pay of Saudi Arabian workers by 40 percent in 2002, Yahya organised the 2000 workers affected and led them to victory, stopping the pay cut.

This, of course, entailed organising a trade union in the plant. 500 attended the first meeting - even though trade unions are illegal in Saudi Arabia - a huge testament to Yahya's abilities and to the determination of these workers to become part of the trade union movement given half a chance. Unfortunately, BAE Systems immediately sacked Yahya.

Yahya fought to get his job back and took the case to a tribunal. In fact, the BAE Systems wished to make it clear that the matter was out of their hands. He has an official letter from the company saying that it was the government officer who ordered that Yahya be sacked.

The whole series of events, the victory, the establishment of the union, Yahya's sacking and his fight for reinstatement received a great deal of media coverage in Saudi Arabia at the time. Yahya soon found himself under surveillance and receiving telephone threats from the government. He was told they would "cut his tongue out" if he didn't stop campaigning. Eventually, he was warned that he should leave the country, if he wanted to protect the safety of his family. This he did.

Yahya and his family arrived in Britain four and a half years ago and asked for asylum Now, both the Home Office and the judge from the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal appeal hearing are saying that – despite the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia where dissidents regularly are jailed, tortured and "disappeared" - Yahya and his family face no threat if they are returned to Saudi Arabia. No one can reasonably agree with this assessment.

A fine record of supporting struggle in Britain

Since he has been in Britain, Yahya has supported every trade union struggle. During the Irish Ferries occupation in December 2005, Yahya not only attended every picket organised, he wanted to sleep on Pembroke Docks until all of the Irish Ferries workers had their jobs back. He has been on picket lines for the Council Workers, Job Centre Workers and Teachers.

This is about protecting the life of a brave, self-sacrificing trade unionist and supporting the fight to build trade unions in the Middle East - as a extremely important part of the fight for a socialist future in the Middle East and internationally.

What You can do

  • Demonstrate: On Thursday 19th February at 2pm there will be a lobby of the Home Secretary in Whitehall. This will be a labour and trade union movement event with banners, large numbers and as wide representation as possible.
  • Urge your MP to attend the demo and lobby (details above). You can contact your MP at www.writetothem.com
  • Collect signatures for the petition
  • Write to the Home Office: (quoting ref: A1236316) to demand that Yahya’s application for refugee status in Britain is accepted, you can amend this model letter if needed. either by email, or send the letter to; Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department, 3rd Floor, Peel Buildings, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.

Please inform the Defend Yahya Al-Faifi Campaign of any letters, faxes, e-mails sent: