Update on case of refugee researcher sacked from Salford University, UK

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary, NUJ

The National Union of Journalists is writing to update you about Dr Rhetta Moran - a trades unionist and internationally recognised researcher on refugee issues. Since Spring 2004, Rhetta has been battling to defend herself and her research against her employer of over six years, the University of Salford, Greater Manchester, UK. Rhetta's colleagues, students, and supporters believe that she was targeted for the sack because of her research into refugee issues that was the first to expose how UK Government Policy was making people destitute.

For example, shortly after destitution first began the Guardian Newspaper carried an article developed through Rhetta's research that exposed how the British Government was rejecting asylum claims from Iraqi men, telling them to leave the country and go home at the same time as the British Government was finalising plans to bomb their very homelands (McFadyean, 22nd March 2003). A year later, just after the Observer Newspaper carried another article about how young asylum seeking women failed by the system were having to live underground in permanent fear in the city of Salford (Asthana, 28th March 2004) Rhetta was removed from her leadership of the nationally acclaimed 600,000 Salford RAPAR SRB5 research project about asylum issues. That project, being delivered by the charity RAPAR and exposing the plight of asylum seekers in the north of England proved uncomfortable for the political establishment (Observer, 12 February 2006). Within a month, the university of Salford wrote to her telling her that her research was not "compatible" and that her contract would not be renewed.

The employment tribunal panel that is hearing her case has sat for 23 days so far. The university is insisting that Rhetta was dismissed because she was 'redundant' but the issues exposed in the courtroom so far include:

Rhetta's professorial line manager's view that she is one of the best researchers he has ever worked with

Within two weeks of sacking her, university bosses handed a 192,316 research grant from the European Social Fund which Rhetta had secured to a male researcher in the university and, when he could not deliver it because he did not have her networks and expertise, they sent the money back to Europe

Many of Rhetta's postgraduate students were left without any supervision for at least one year

The court will reconvene at Alexandra House, 14-22 The Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA. (Alexandra House is located directly behind Kendals on Deansgate.) on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th August and Monday 2nd to Friday 6th October. Your continued support and solidarity are important. The tribunal sessions run from 10am to 1pm, then from around 2pm to 5pm in the afternoon. Your attendance at any time would be greatly appreciated.

This case is about academic freedom and human rights: the rights of researchers to do their research and to communicate their findings about human rights abuses without interference and the responsibilities of universities and governments to protect these rights.

Please send email messages of support for Rhetta's continuing struggle to manchesternuj@nuj.org.uk with copies to rhetta.moran@ntlworld.com

Please pass this on to anybody else who would be interested. Thank you.




August 2006

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