The sun is out. People are dressed up in white and propelling hard spheres of red leather at each other’s heads and legs. Children are parading through the streets. Artists are balancing rocks in impossible combinations. Summer must have arrived and with it the Brighton Festival. If that’s not enough to make you happy, we have extraordinary good news (I’m not referring to the resignation of the Home Secretary because she was too harsh on migrants).
Before I get to the good news, I want to let you know about three super good events that we have coming up. The first is a pub quiz and vegan supper at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, on Friday June 1st at 7pm. Tickets are £4 unwaged or £8 waged. You can book your place by filling in our contact form. Don’t worry if you don’t have a team, we are all one big happy family. The second event is our glorious annual ceilidh. It is on 20 July. Tickets are not available yet, but it’s not an event to be missed. You might want to put it in your diary. Not strictly a T4K event, but one run by our daughter project, the Jollof Café (every Tuesday lunchtime at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road – a migrant led community meal), on the 29 May at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church we have the first Hospitable Environment Solidarity Supper. Come share a delicious Egyptian meal and eat for love. Now the good news.
Five of the people you have been supporting won their right to remain last month. Our first family were finally recognised as being entitled to live in the UK. You can find a fictionalised version of their story here (It is not for the fainthearted. It contains a discussion of domestic violence). Our second family won their right to a family reunion. The male half (father and son) and female half (mother and daughter) will no longer be separated. It has been an incredible and awful journey with all the nastiness of a trek across Europe, the Calais jungle and the brutality of the UK’s Home Office. Fortunately, it won’t be long now until they can start to rebuild their life. A single woman won her case and has a new, hopefully, permanent home. Ali, who needed your help to pay the enormous fees on an application for settlement, received his Indefinite Leave to Remain.
It’s a journey that started 11 years ago with him swimming from Iran to Turkey; a journey which has now, with the community’s support, reached its terminus. Finally, a Palestinian from Gaza won the second appeal in his asylum claim. Despite the fact that he comes from a war zone, was a clear target of Hamas, for both political and religious reasons, had met and married a British woman and suffers from an aggressive version of MS, it took the UK 16 years to decide that he was in need of international protection. It has been an emotional month.
There are always more people who need your support to win their Right to Remain. One of our members was recently highlighted by the Argus. He is a young man from Syria who left his wife and son behind to seek sanctuary in the UK. He has been waiting three years for the Home Office to make a decision on his case. There is nothing complex about his case. He protested the Assad government. He was imprisoned and tortured. He comes from Syria. There is absolutely no excuse for the delay. He is not alone. There are many other asylum seekers experiencing unreasonable delays. None of them want to go public, for obvious reasons, but it is a scandal. Things are only going to get worse as the Home Office move their shambolic decision-makers over to deal with the Windrush generation cases. Please do share the story and write to the Home Secretary at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to ask him to sort out their atrocious and slow decision-making. There are some very helpful infographics highlighting the scale of the problem here.
The other campaign is for the amazing Luqman Onikosi (he is the driving force behind the Solidarity supper and many other extraordinary events). After eight years of trying, he has finally won the right to appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision to deport him to his death. Luqman was diagnosed with hepatitis B in the middle of his degree course. His brothers have died of the same disease. There is no treatment available to Luqman in Nigeria. Luqman is claiming Leave to Remain on medical grounds. There are two strands to the case. One is a groundbreaking attempt to force the UK to recognise the people, like Luqman, facing certain death because of a pre-existing medical condition should be classed as refugees. There is legal aid for this part of the challenge. The other is a still pretty radical, though more well trodden, claim that Luqman’s health in conjunction with his extraordinary community engagement constitutes a private life which cannot be replicated in Nigeria. Moreover, there is no real public interest in violating Luqman’s right to a private life. As Luqman always says, it’s extraordinary that we are meant to believe that it is in our interest to remove him from the UK and letting die. There is no legal aid for this aspect of the claim. He needs £2500 to cover this aspect of the appeal. You can donate here. The particularly nice aspect of this crowdfunder is that the more people who donate, the more Luqman can argue that the public interest is in keeping him in the UK. Even if you can’t donate, do please consider signing up to his campaign. There are many practical things that you can do.
This success is not down to luck. It is the fruit of your labour. People need houses and money if they are going to be in a position to navigate the labyrinthine processes of the UK immigration system. That is precisely what your support provides. Indeed, I think it is more than plausible that projects like Thousand 4 1000 can also be credited with having put the Home Office onto the back foot (although there is always a risk that they are shaping to slash over point. Cricket Joke!). The fact that projects like ours, the Hummingbird, Refugee Radio, Room for Refugees and Refugees at Home to name just a few, are popping up like those proverbial mushrooms after the inevitable precipitation means that flesh is being put on the bones of the slogan “Refugees Welcome”.
I am now going to boast a little bit, but no less an organisation than Liberty made special mention of us in their recent report, “a guide to the hostile environment”. Thousand 4 1000 is held up, on page 27, as a model way of resisting the hostile environment in housing. We are doing somethiong right. Just this month, in addition to having to climb down over the treatment of people who moved here in the 60s and 70s from Commonwealth countries, the Home Office have put a moratorium on data sharing with the NHS and climbed down over collecting immigration data in the school census. It can’t be a coincidence that the fantastic proliferation of projects that prioritise welcome over hostility is now also beginning to affect change at the political level. If nothing else, the canard that the powers that be would like nothing else than to be more welcoming to immigrants if only the electorate would support them is, at the very least, revealed not to be a Jane Austin truth.
I know that I have always been an optimist and I’m sure that there are people far more experienced and far sharper than me who would recognise pitfalls and problems in the current moment, but, despite that caveat, I think all of us can be proud of our achievements. Not only have we revolutionised the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our town, our small collective acts of solidarity, are, at the very least, providing a vision of a society that values diversity and believes in plurality. That has to be the first step on the path to a world where there is truly is space for all.