One of our members, a truly wonderful man, is in need of somewhere he can use to have a holiday with his children. He is a long term Brighton resident, but a few years ago his wife decided to return to her home country and left with the kids. It was all very amicable and our man has been in regular phone contact. Unfortunately, visa restrictions prevent him from traveling to see the children. Fortunately they and their mum are coming to see him in Brighton from 27-5 August. The cost of holiday accommodation in high season is a bit beyond his means. If anyone happens to be away that week or has space anyway, then it would be a lovely thing to let this family stay in your home. If you can help, please be in touch.
There is a desperate need for affordable housing. There are, for examples, a Syrian couple, expecting a baby next month, living in 1 room emergency accommodation. It is super stressful. They need somewhere at the housing benefit rate. There is a refugee family of four living in a one-bedroom flat. They need somewhere bigger. There is a disabled man living with a dodgy, abusive landlord who needs his own, accessible, flat. That’s not everybody.
There are at least two asylum seeking families who have to be in Brighton, have no money and cannot get Asylum Seeker Service accommodation down here (there is none). They are being accommodated by friends, but is overcrowded and stressful. We don’t have the money to provide them with their own house. They need somewhere rent-free. If Brighton is going to house them all T4K needs another £2000 a month.
We have referrals coming in all the time from organisations like St Mungo’s, RISE and even the Local Authority. Sometimes the individual referred has recourse to Public Funds but even then, we don’t have enough friendly landlords. If you have accommodation that you can rent at the housing benefit rate, that would be amazing. If you know somebody who has accommodation that they can rent at affordable prices, that would also be amazing. If you have an empty flat, please, please, get in touch.
If you, like most of us, don’t have such things, then please spread the word and consider signing up to support the project. We can make space for all out of our small change.
Sunshine. Long days. Joy. As they say in Lonely Londoners, “summer is all hearts”. It’s been a good month for two of the people you have been supporting. Morris, who put on the Law and Life event to raise money so that he can be reunited with his daughter, won his Indefinite Leave to Remain. We will be having a “if I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution disco” at the Cowley Club on 6 July in the evening to celebrate. (Incidentally, that’s the day before the Sussex Refugee Support Festival in West Chiltington). With a bit of luck and your support, he will soon have his daughter with him. Some of you will have seen Ahmed’s story in the Argus and many of you will have taken action to support him, but, after nearly 4 years, the Home Office relented, acknowledged he was Syrian and granted him asylum.
It is also been a momentous month for one of the families you have been supporting. The family won their Right to Remain a few months back and the mum has started looking for work and sorting out her own house. She moved out of T4K accommodation into her own place this Monday. She does need a sofa, tables and chairs and a chest of drawers/wardrobe. If anyone knows of one going spare, do be in touch. Her family is very much our family and we will not forget them, but it’s lovely to see people moving on and up with their life. For me, the moral is that the more welcoming the community that we build, the more success we will have, so thank you very, very much.
We are currently in the middle of Refugee Week and there are loads of fantastic events all around the city. The Crossing Borders Festival is back celebrating the music of exile and displacement. I particularly like it because music would make no sense if it was limited to a particular geographical location. Of course, music is a wonderful expression of the best side of humanity. You put all that together and you realise that movement is a basic human good. We are also very lucky to have such innovative programming in a music festival to celebrate refugees. If you’ve not already caught us at some of the events, you will be able to find us at the One Love Festival in Worthing this Sunday and also at the Dome for the spectacular Together festival.
Having said all that, by far and away the most exciting event of the year is about to happen, what could that possibly be other than the T4K annual ceilidh. It is on Friday, 20 July at BHASVIC. Doors are at 7.30 with dancing from 8. It will be called by the Brighton Ceilidh collective. There will be a bar and food. Tickets are £10 and can be purchased in advance by clicking this link (you will have to pay £1.07 processing fee to eventbrite, so maybe we should say tickets are £11.07).
Some of you might know that I was invited back in October to give a talk at the October TEDx conference at the Brighton Dome – ooh, check me. It has been online for a while now and if you want to watch it:
As you might imagine, I tried to make the case that preventing people from moving round the world was fundamentally problematic and that we should, instead, celebrate diversity. Now, the reaction to the video has been largely positive, but I’m told that it created a small amount of kickback on social media (it has not exactly gone viral). Admittedly, not being a user of social media, my source for that is a man who delights in misinformation. His proudest achievement is creating a small little media storm about a man who offered free accommodation in exchange for somebody dressing up as a walrus. So it’s possible I’ve been duped, but according to my unreliable friend, I’ve been called “a cuck” in a number of places.
Now, whether or not that is true, I don’t know, but it certainly made me think. This insult “cuck”, short for “cuckold”, is a reclamation of an old insult by the so-called alt-right. I guess the idea is that I’m somehow not manly enough to be powerful and dominant over people. I somehow can’t keep “my woman” under control. It’s laughable, but it is also frightening. There is an emerging politics that wants to make a virtue out of nastiness. It’s a politics that sees openness and kindness as weak and in their stead sets up sets up selfishness, strength and dominance as its guiding principles.
That such a politics has any success at all I find scary, but that it appears to be the guiding ideology behind so many political movements round the world terrifies me. It seems to me that it is a recipe for conflict and misery, but also completely unnecessary. There is nothing frightening about difference and disagreement. It is through difference and disagreement that we learn and expand our conception of what is possible. It also seems to me that it is only through working together and sharing, if not everything then at least the surplus, that we will be able to respond to the environmental, economic and political challenges that we already face and only going to become more pressing as this century continues. T4K isn’t going to save the world (even I wouldn’t claim that), but it is a quiet assertion that we would rather be cucks than bigots. If we can continue to expand, it will also be proof that by working together we can make homes for refugees and make space for people who need our protection because the politics of nastiness drove them from their homes.
Refugee Week turns 20 this year. It’s an extraordinary achievement. It is going to be massive in Brighton. There are events across the city all month. As well as the events of Refugee Week, there’s going to be the Crossing Borders Festival and other ‘fringe’ events. You can see the listings bellow:
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.
One of our supporters, Karen Swirsky will be running 10km on Sunday.
She only started running as she approached her 60th birthday. She says, “I’ve always been convinced that I couldn’t run”. She caught the running bug when she did the couch to 5K running program, but now she wants to double the distance and run 10 km. She is going to do it this Saturday alongside the Brighton Marathon. To encourage her endeavours she has been asking people to make a contribution to T4K. She sent this message to all her friends:
I am taking this opportunity to try to raise money for a small, local, grassroots charity called ‘Thousand 4 1000’ which was set up in response to destitution and homelessness amongst refugees and other migrants in the city. The charity provides accommodation and personal support for refugees and forced migrants in the Brighton area and raises money for a destitution fund. This is used to meet some of the essential, everyday living costs of people trapped on the wrong side of the increasingly harsh and punitive immigration system. I would be delighted if you could support my run and the T4K destitution fund by donating money.
Please do give Karen your support by donating money or waving her on on Sunday. She is going to need it. She has never done more than 8 km. Go Karen!
Bank Name: The Co-operative Bank Account Name: Thousand 4 1000 Sort Code: 08-92-99 Account number: 65835171 Reference: DSFYOURNAME
Gift Aid your donation
Springtime is well and truly here. The snow has melted and the daffodils are poking their bright trumpets upwards to be refreshed by the spring rain that never ends. Things are very busy here at T4K, despite the weather. It is extremely exciting. A whole bunch of new volunteers responded to our call out last month. The team is bigger, better, bolder and many other things beginning with a B (bristling with brio?). It will be invaluable as we mature and grow.
One upside of growth is that people who need us know that we exist. There is more and more demand for housing and support. Apart from the ever present need to increase our monthly income, now over £2000/month (thank you), we need more affordable housing. I appreciate that not a lot of people have a spare house lying around, but if you do, or know someone who does, or even if you have a spare room, please do be in touch. It is so very needed.
2 of the people you have been supporting, for example, now have refugee status and need somewhere they can rent themselves at around about the housing benefit rate. A woman showed up at this Tuesday’s Jollof Cafe at the Cowley Club to see if we could help her deal with her overcrowding. She is living in a one-bedroom flat with her husband and 2 small children. They need another bedroom and they need the total price to be not much more than £860/month. It’s hard to find well-paid work in this town and it’s even harder if your 1st language is not English and you had to flee the country of your nativity. So, do please keep your eyes open for affordable accommodation.
We were involved in 2 contrasting events in February, Refugee Valentine at the Rose Hill Tavern and, along with Amnesty, the Asylum Monologues at the West Hill Hall. The former, chiefly organised by the irrepressible Luqman Onikosi, was an attempt to move Valentine’s day beyond monogamous pair bonding to embrace a love that crosses boundaries. It was a fantastic showcase of the value of diversity and, more importantly, an affirmation of the love and joy that people bring with them when they cross borders and form new communities. Around about 90 people, more than can fit in the Rose Hill, shared a vegan take on two Gambian specialities. Alaa from Best Foot Music mesmerised with his oud and his singing, before the legendary Yamäya brought the house down with their infectious afrobeat. It was truly joyous (better than the other thing that’s traditionally associated with Valentine’s Day).
The Asylum monologues were a much more sombre affair. Superbly read by a team of 5 actors, the monologues brought home the interminable Kafkaesque nightmare of the UK’s asylum system. Kafkaesque is overused as a description but there is no other word for it. Among the stories was the story of a Congolese activist, smuggled to the UK by his comrades apparently to safety, only to be disbelieved, humiliated, impoverished, detained, released and shuffled around the country at the whim of ASS (the asylum support service). The monologues conclude with his story unconcluded. It’s one we know well at T4K. There are 3 people we are supporting, who are still in the asylum system after 18 years. Despite our three years at the coalface, I remain staggered by the cruelty of the system, particularly when you put it in contrast with the warmth, joy and love that human beings bring to each other.
For me that was the take-home message of another astonishing event, Refugee Radio’s, iRefugee event. Almost every participant had been staggered by the hostility and outright cruelty of the Home Office, but overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. It is also the take-home message of Thousand 4 1000. You, through your individual small acts of love, collectively are creating a welcoming environment for migrants that is going a small but measurable way towards changing the way our society as a whole welcomes those most in need. For that, a thousand thanks.
One of our members, a lovely refugee from Mali, has just moved into an unfurnished bedsit. Does anyone have any of the following items they could donate to him?
- Electric hotplate
- Rice cooker
- Kitchen Knives
If you can help, you can let us know using our contact form. Thank you so much.
A new and creative way to commemorate St Valentine, at the beautiful Rose Hill, home of art and music, in Rose Hill Terrace. This event was arranged by members of the Jollof Cafe Brigade and the Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self-Support Group, and was a celebration of community, with food, music, and lots more people than expected, or than it seemed feasible to fit into the space.
Music was by Alaa (Oud and vocal), singing songs of Syria,
and then headlined by Yamaya, Afrobeat Funk Fusion band, who by all accounts (I was asleep in bed by then) made Rose Hill Terrace rock.
The mood was joyful, the company unrivaled, and the event made more money than could have been anticipated.
I hope that you all managed to have a peaceful and enjoyable time over Christmas and the New Year, so that you are able to face 2018 with joy and enthusiasm. T4K, thanks to your amazing support, is in a good place. It is also in a place of transition. There is about £1800 a month coming into the account. That comes from about 380 donors. There are also over 500 supporters of the project.
The reason that we are in a good place is that we are in place of transition. You are now housing, 3 families and 3 single men across 5 homes. There are also numerous others receiving advice and support as they try to navigate the shifting shallows of the UK immigration system. Some of those people are in need of housing. The original vision was to find housing for just 2 people who were in dire need two and a half years ago. It is an amazing journey.
We need to expand the organisation. We are creating and refining new working processes to deal with what is a huge caseload for a small charity. We also need more volunteers and more affordable accommodation.
To take those in reverse order, do you have, or do you know of anybody, who has rooms or houses that can be let at, or below, the housing benefit rate? Do you know of anybody who has a spare room that they would be happy for someone trapped in immigration limbo to use for free? If so, please do be in touch.
There is an awful lot to be done and we are all volunteers. As the project has expanded bits and pieces fall between the cracks. We have come up with a long list of tasks that we think should not take more than a few hours a month (on average), but that need some people to commit to so that those cracks are beautifully cemented. You can find the list here. They cover all areas from admin through publicity and fundraising to face-to-face support with individuals. If you are lucky enough to have a bit of spare time, please have a read and get in touch.
I am very aware that people have offered to help out in the past and have not always had their offer of support taken up. I’m very sorry about that. It should not happen this time. As you can see from the list, each activity has a named lead to make sure that the expansion goes smoothly. In addition to all of that, we always need more money. So if anybody wants to arrange a jumble sale, a party, cake bake or sponsored immersion in baked beans and brussel sprouts, go right ahead (other ideas are welcomed too).
Before I get onto the story, I want to share the details of our upcoming event. We are having a small fundraiser to celebrate love at the Rosehill, on 14 February. It’s called “Refugee Valentine”. You can find details about the event here. There will be shared music and shared food and a whole lot of love. Hopefully see you there.
Now, If anyone is still reading, the long awaited good news. Abdul (not his real name) finally received his Biometric Residence Permit. He had his appeal allowed by the First Tier Tribunal at the end of August and the Home Office decided not to appeal. This was a good move by Amber Rudd as she did not have a leg to stand on. It is an extraordinary relief and, as I am about to explain, there is no way that Abdul could have made it without you. Thank you so much.
Despite the good news, my overwhelming emotion is anger. Abdul arrived in this country seven years ago, as a teenager. He had, as it turned out, a cut and dried case for asylum simply based on his ethnic origins. He also had an extremely strong claim to asylum because of his political activities. What Abdul didn’t have is knowledge that he was literally in a legal fight for his life (that is literally a one in a million literal use of the word “literally”). He claimed asylum without any legal representation. He had no idea that he would have to provide overwhelming evidence of his trauma, and so naturally glossed over his more painful experiences. He had no idea that he could claim asylum as a member of a persecuted minority and so did not put much effort into explaining what, to a complete outsider, is a complex ethnic identity.
Things weren’t helped by having an interpreter who spoke a completely different dialect from Abdul and who, either from incompetence or shame, glossed over key features of Abdul’s story. The Home Office, whose default position is that you are lying, claimed that Abdul not only wasn’t from a persecuted minority, but wasn’t even from the country in question. It thus stood to reason that he couldn’t possibly have had trouble with the authorities.
What followed was the usual and interminable saga of finding overworked legal aid providers, appeals and fresh submissions, whilst all the while trying to keep body and soul together as he was shuttled between substandard asylum seeker accommodation. Desperate, Abdul discovered that he could apply for a right to work, was granted it and excitedly moved to Brighton. What he hadn’t been told was that entitlement was in fact in a few very specialised professions, such as brain surgery. Abdul was, unsurprisingly, woefully under qualified for any work that he was allowed to do. In addition, having voluntarily given up the pittance he was receiving from the Home Office, Abdul was absolutely destitute. He ended up homeless.
Fortunately, Voices in Exile and Doctors of the World were able to support him. They asked us to find him somewhere to stay and we were able to house him; first with an incredibly generous host family and then in a home your support makes possible. He was in a position to pursue an appeal.
It was particularly fortunate that you were supporting him as, in the very last leg, it transpired that he could claim asylum based on his ethnicity but his solicitors dropped all of their legal aid clients. Legal Aid is just too underfunded to be worthwhile for commercial firms. His wonderful barrister, Ubah Dirie, agreed to take on the case pro bono, if Abdul could gather the additional evidence he needed. We needed a solicitor to take witness statements and formally instruct Ubah. His original advocate agreed to do that work pro bono (I am still grateful). Abdul also needed an expert witness to refute the absurd claim that Abdul was lying about his identity. Following Ubah’s lead we approached the star cheese. It took the cheese about 5 minutes to establish what is obvious to anyone who meets Abdul, namely that, although, by his own estimation, he is no angel, he is extremely truthful. The expert was so outraged by the Home Office’s behaviour that he took on the case for free and even put back a hospital appointment to show up in court.
The stability and money that you provided meant that Abdul could gather witnesses, pay transport costs and undertake all the other activities needed to win his case. It should never have come to this. Abdul comes from a country with regime so violent that simply by being born he faced serious risks. He should have been welcomed and supported to start life again here. Instead, because he didn’t know how to twist himself through elaborate and tiny loops, a tortuous logic was used to ‘prove’ that he was a liar. How has it come to this?
As an addendum, I was speaking to Abdul last night. He takes a different view. He says, “7 years is too much, but, let’s be honest, Jac, when I think about my case, it’s a blessing. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t invited here. I came here illegally. They didn’t have to give me it [Leave to Remain]”. Make of that what you will.