Blog

Some Successes — T4K August Update

August is here and hopefully all of you are able to find the time and the money to have a little holiday. It’s summer (despite the rain), so I sincerely hope you are all fortunate enough to have some time that is wholly yours. Now the good news. We are doing okay. Thanks to the wonderful ceilidh, a silent disco organised by some Sussex University students and other bits and pieces of fundraising, there is enough money to keep everybody housed until March. We are still about £300 a month short of having a regular income sufficient to meet our ongoing commitments, but hopefully there is time to catch up with ourselves. (Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Imagine not chasing your own tail).

Even more excitingly, one of the people you have been supporting received his status. To protect his anonymity I’m going to call him, Peter. Peter was referred to us by Voices in Exile because he needed some support with his Family Life appeal and, indeed, support with his family life. Although Peter is a refugee from Zimbabwe, the Home Office, in their infinite wisdom, decided that he did not need protection from Mugabe. He spent the usual years in immigration limbo, but being a really personable individual, he had managed to start a serious relationship with a British woman. They married and he received a limited leave to remain. By the time that leave expired, the relationship had broken down and a child had been born. He was homeless and desperate. Peter fought hard to maintain his relationship with his son. It is pretty difficult when you are camping, but, he managed it, until the powers that be moved him on and shuttled him through a series of homelessness charities. None of the charities were able to help because of his lack of status. He ended up in Brighton, where thanks to Voices and our destitution fund, we were able to get him some legal advice and pay for the transport to see his son. We are also able, thanks to Positive Action in Housing’s Room for Refugees scheme, to find him somewhere to live. With that stability and support, Peter was able to win his case. As he likes to put it, he is no longer trapped between the ink.

Hopefully, by next month, one of the three men we are housing will have won his asylum case. I can’t go into details just yet, but, I am pretty confident, that I will be able tell you the story in the next newsletter. It centres on an extraordinary refusal to believe even the most basic and obvious things this man said about himself. It meant another trip to an immigration tribunal at the backend of Heathrow airport. It looks like a generic office block, but inside, as well as x-ray machines and airport style security, there are corridors-cum-waiting rooms and small offices converted into courts by the presence of large quantities of wood. The judge sits on a raised dais, backed by the coat of arms. If you’re anything like me, you probably never had reason to pay attention to this archaic heraldry. However, if you sit as a spectator in the bizarre ritual which is an immigration tribunal, you might notice that the scroll reads, “Dieu et mon doit”, “God and my right”, and around the bit in the middle, which apparently is the motto of the Order of the Garter, you have, “honi soit qui mal y pense”, “shame be to him who thinks evil of it”.

By SodacaniThe source code of this SVG is valid.This vector image was created with Inkscape. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

As an expression of arbitrary power, it doesn’t get much better than that. It may as well say, “I’ll do what I like and you can shut your mouth”. It certainly feels that way when you come as an observer to these places. Small knots of anxious people whisper anxiously. If they are lucky enough they are in hushed conference with their barrister. If not, they wait nervously clutching their papers. The system is opaque, the setting anodyne and the petitioners powerless, but what happens in these places is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

Our man was able to bring a whole gaggle of witnesses, again thanks to the destitution fund, and a number of his friend showed up just to support him. The hearing went about as well as anyone could have hoped. The scene afterwards, as we gathered in a car park located at the end of one of Heathrow’s runways, was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Here was a group of no longer so young men, who had been through the asylum ordeal, hugging and congratulating their friend and fellow traveller. They had all left night shifts early so they could be in Feltham at 10 o’clock to support their friend. It was a moving display of solidarity and friendship. Against the backdrop of the state in all its bureaucratic hostility, I couldn’t help but feel sad and angry that the state had treated these men with suspicion and real meanness. They were clearly who they claimed to be; men who found themselves washed up on the shores by horrific violence and who now wanted a bit of peace and quiet to build some sort of life for themselves in a foreign country that they hoped would become home. With a tiny bit of luck, the seven year odyssey of the man you have been housing will be over by this time next month. It will take a very mean judge to insist that the Home Office is right and our man a fabricator. Maybe, just maybe he has made like the proverbial camel and squeezed through the eye of a needle.

I want to leave you with one more story that will hopefully give you a sense of what the project means to people. It concerns M, a 60 year old woman from West Africa, who was married to a British man. She lived with him in Sussex for 7 years, having come to the UK on a spousal visa.  When the marriage became violent and abusive, with the support and encouragement of RISE, she courageously decided to leave him. They referred her to Thousand 4 1000 and we supported her move. Initially she was unable to claim housing benefit, due to her immigration status, and therefore her housing options were extremely limited.  Thanks to your support, we were able to fund her stay in a hotel for a few nights and subsequently in a room in a house, while helping her with her application for “Indefinite leave to remain”. This was granted within a few weeks, thanks to the legal services of Voices in Exile.  After a few weeks in a refuge in another county, she was finally rehoused in Council accommodation – but with no carpets or furniture. We were able to use the destitution fund to help her purchase enough basic items to help her, finally, to feel she has a home again.

Brick cottage on the High St, Hastings Old Town - geograph.org.uk - 1352502
Nigel Chadwick [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This is the sort of difference that your £1 per month (or a little bit more) makes to the lives of individuals in Brighton. Thank you so much. Please do continue to support us, sign up for Gift Aid if you can, and persuade a couple of your friends to become involved as well. We would love to be able to put an end this whole nightmare, simply by being able to house everyone who has been made homeless because of their immigration status. Those sunny uplands are still a long way off, but the journey has begun. Thank you.

Guarantor Needed

A wonderful Egyptian Orthodox refugee couple urgently need a guarantor. They have been offered a flat for £625 a week. They have a regular monthly income of around £1250 and no children. They have an impeccable rental history. One half of the couple is a self-employed computer programmer. They receive around about £780 a month in various social security payments, including housing benefit. The tenancy agreement is a rolling monthly contract and the guarantor is expected to make up any shortfall in the rent. It would be extremely unlikely that it came to that, however, that is what you would be guaranteeing. The guarantor needs to be working and own a home, ideally with a mortgage bizarrely. It is particularly urgent because, apart from the usual difficulties of finding a flat on a low income when you have an unusual immigration status, the wife of the couple is disabled and they need a level access flat that is suitable for her wheelchair. If you can help, please be in touch.

Jollof Cafe Tuesdays, Cowley Club

This coming Tuesday, 25th July, sees the first of our weekly Jollof cafes in the Cowley Club, 12 London Road. They will start at 2.30 and be a friendly, safe space for everyone in the community, from newly arrived to settled for generations to meet and relax over tasty, pay as you feel, vegan, West African food. Any money we make on the food will be put towards the costs of keeping in touch with your children when you have been made destitute because of your immigration status.

In the long run, we hope to expand to include a drop-in service and homework club, but for now we are starting with a pleasant space for people to relax over some tasty food. See you there.

Rooms Wanted

We have been approached by a lovely 30 year old man from Syria. He currently has a scholarship to Brighton Uni for a masters in marketing. His scholarship runs out on 2nd of September and with it his accommodation at the university.  As a refugee, he is entitled to Housing Benefit, but is struggling to find anywhere that will take him. There is the double whammy of the difficulty in finding a landlord who will accept housing benefit and the discrimination people with Temporary Leave to Remain face in the rental market. The new Immigration Act makes it a crime to rent to someone without Leave to Remain. A combination of ignorance and the bureaucratic hassle of checking means that landlords often reject people without permanent residency. It’s also pretty clear that it is not just people with temporary leave, it is also anyone who is read as “foreign” is caught up in the hostile environment dragnet here.

This master student is not the only person. We are in touch with three other people with refugee status in a similar situation, but who don’t want to share any of their details online. If you have a room that you need to sublet, or know of someone who does and can do it for the housing benefit rate, £82 per week, please get in touch.

As well as these four refugees, there is a family of Syrian’s who need a room by the 26th. They have housing benefit and a deposit. They are looking for a two-bedroom flat. The rate here is £192 per week.If you come across something suitable, please get in touch.

Help Moving a Fridge Freezer

We have kindly been offered this beautiful fridge freezer. There is a family of Syrian refugees in need of the item. The problem is that the fridge freezer is in Burgess Hill and, as you can see, is very large. The family is in the wider Brighton metropolitan area. Doesn’t that sound fancy? Can anybody help to transport it? It would be much appreciated. If you can, do get in touch through the contact page. One thousand thanks.

 

Fridge Freezer

It’s Hot, T4K June Update

It is hot. It is summer and I missed a monthly update. I am sorry. I was trying to save up for some big announcements. It turns out that bureaucracies are even less efficient than I am. We are opening a bank account with an actual bank and we will, now that we are a charity, soon be signed up to the gift aid scheme. What I wanted to do was ask you to redirect your standing orders and sign up for everybody’s favourite tax avoidance scheme. Look out for it next month.

In other news, we are having a ceilidh. It will be on 7 July at BHASVIC on Dyke Road. The Blackthorn ceilidh band will be playing live. There will be food from an Ethiopian food collective, a superb raffle, a bar with beer from Bartleby’s Brewery as well as soft drinks and hard liquor (I’m not sure about the hard liquor. That might be a lie. There will be wine), and of course fun, love and silly dancing.

 

Like at this one

Tickets are just £10 waged or £5 unwaged. Children are welcome by donation (don’t donate us your children, we don’t want them, but they are welcome at the party, if you give us a donation). Tickets are selling very fast, so get in there quick. You can find out how to buy tickets here: https://thousandfor1000.wordpress.com/summer-ceilidh.

More worryingly, we are overstretched. We have steadily growing monthly income. It appears to be around £1100 per month. This is good, but not good enough. Our monthly commitments are £1500. We are surviving because we’ve had so many generous one-off donations. It’s so vitally important. We are currently housing seven people, including children. We are supporting far more. The need is growing all the time. This is not surprising. It was the stated policy of the last government — and it seems hard to imagine the new one changing it — to create a hostile environment for people from abroad whom the government deems surplus to requirements. (They don’t put it like that, but when they talk about bringing over the brightest and the best who will benefit the UK and getting rid of everybody else, that’s what they mean). You can find an excellent summary of what the hostile environment means here: https://www.freemovement.org.uk/hostile-environment-affect/, but I wanted to share our own experience of it with you.

Domestic Violence Protester

One of the families you are supporting is, to borrow a phrase from another man you are housing, “trapped between the ink”. The mother of the family married someone and that relationship that brought her to the UK. He turned out to be abusive. She was strong enough to escape with the children and try to avail herself of the domestic violence concession. The DV concession is a welcome note of kindness within the UK immigration system. It allows victims of domestic violence Leave to Remain, so that their precarious situation is not yet one more way of keeping them trapped. You still have to prove that you are a victim, and we know people who have not been able to do that, but the concession is definitely a Good Thing. It is, however, as mean-spirited as it can possibly be. In order to qualify for the concession you need to have had some form of leave to enter or remain. The Home Office apparently, despite legal challenges, actually expect you to have a valid partner or family migration visa. This did not apply our friend. Part of the abuse was keeping her in the dark about immigration status, and it turned out she did not have a qualifying visa.

Still, she had some children. One of them was a British citizen. The dreaded EU Court has ruled that, where an EU national is the primary carer of an EU citizen, then, even if that citizen has not exercised their treaty rights by moving country, it would be a breach of their rights as an EU citizen to expect them to leave the EU. In other words, the single mother of a British child cannot be deported from the UK. Once again, the UK meets this in the narrowest way possible. They will grant you a derived right to remain, but won’t give you any access to Public Funds. Now, “Public Funds” is a misnomer. They don’t mean any money from a public institution. There are a list of what constitutes public funds. It housing benefit and jobseeker’s and the like, so there is a loophole to get you some support. Legislation governing the local authority, the Care Act and Children’s Act, requires councils to provide housing and limited financial support for people in this situation who find themselves destitute. (That support is pretty rubbish, and, as you might have seen in The Guardian, Local Authorities are threatening to take children into care, rather than provide housing. I don’t think that this has happened in Brighton. We know somebody who it happened to in Milton Keynes). There is a proviso. That proviso is no other statutory body has the responsibility. Now, the law is a bit weird here. Your country of origin is expected to have that responsibility, but, of course, you can’t be expected to return to your country of origin because that would mean your children losing their rights as an EU citizen.

With me so far? Normally, once you find yourself in that situation, there’s nowhere else for you to go and the council ends up with the duty. In our case, there is some suggestion that there are residency rights elsewhere in the EU. What does that mean? Well, the whole family can relocate to the country in question, let’s imagine it’s Portugal, and, because Portugal is in the EU, the EU citizen child does not lose his or her treaty rights. So, Brighton and Hove Council don’t have any duty to the family. As far as the local authority concerned, the responsibility begins and ends with buying the family tickets to Portugal.

We are of course supporting the family to appeal against the council’s decision and to sort out their immigration status. But, for me, what’s wonderful is that with your money and the amazing generosity of some individuals, we have been able to provide some cushioning from the brutal hostility of the UK’s impenetrable immigration bureaucracy. We can do it. Love, solidarity (and, I think, rage) can force a sea change in the state’s attitude to immigration. We know that a diverse society is a healthy society and a joyous society. We also know that we are richer when we look to support each other rather than beggar our neighbour. The question is how do we share that knowledge and embed those values? For me, it’s important that we have the right people in Westminster, that is politicians brave enough to challenge the cross-party consensus that immigration is a problem, but those people will emerge if we make it possible for them to emerge. The DUP look like dinosaurs, but their views on abortion and gay rights were pretty mainstream in the 90s. Change occurs because we have already made the change. It is through projects which challenge is to look after each other and give us the means to do so, projects like Thousand 4 1000, that we will change the whole way our society functions. So, please keep supporting the project, keep pestering your friends to sign up, and come to the Ceilidh to party like it’s 1799, so that in 30 years time nobody is trapped between the ink because of they weren’t from round here. Thank you.

Files
By Christian Schnettelker, www.manoftaste.com, released under CC. Licence 2.0.

Support Javad

This Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting a young man from Iran, Javad and his wonderful adoptive parents, Terry and Stuart. Javad’s parents were killed in the Bam earthquake of 2003. Javad was taken into an orphanage. At 12, he left Iran strapped the underside of a lorry and came to the UK. He was looked after by the care system and at 21 moved to Hastings.

Javad plays guitar

He has lived there ever since. He has never had any form of leave to remain in this country, but you can’t deport orphans to Iran. That would be a breach of their human rights. Of course, now that he’s an adult, it’s totally acceptable for the UK government to expect him to return to Iran. Javad, Terry and Stuart are fighting hard for Javad to have the right to remain in the only place he can possibly call home. To compound the horror of being dumped in a country you have no real ties to, Javad is autistic. It is unimaginably cruel to insist that he has to start again in a country he last knew as a child.

Javad’s central problem is that there is no easy route to status. He’s too old to claim a right to a private and family life as a child of Terry and Stuart. He doesn’t have a partner or children of his own. What he does have is a family and a community who love him. His best chance is to persuade the Home Secretary, his very own MP, that his autism and the length of hisabsence from the country where he has no immediate family means that there are significant obstacles to him rebuilding what he has here in Iran. To do that, he needs all of our support. You have a few minutes, perhaps could sign and share his petition, 38 Degrees Petition, share his website, http://www.supportjavad.com, or even write him a letter of support, http://www.supportjavad.com/media.html.

Javad clearly struggled hard with social interaction. He is shy and nervous. This is not surprising given his life background and cognitive make up. What is, perhaps, surprising, is how warm and enthusiastic Javad is. It is clear that all Javad wants to do is take part in regular life in the UK. He is a fashion designer of some talent. He wants to run his own clothing label. He wants to help out with community projects and to be constructive member of society. We can only hope that the powers that be will give him the chance.

Space For All Estate Agency

An off-shoot of the Make It Happen! Homes for Refugees art project has just popped up.

Space for All Estate Agency will be located, temporarily, on the corner of Hartington Road and Brading Road, BN2 3PD.

Come and take a look at our current sales and lettings, all are the result of a collective effort of creativity.

You may like our feature location, somewhere between Brighton and Calais:

Space For All Estate Agency

T4K April Update — An Interview with a Resident

It has been a busy and exciting month here at Thousand 4 £1000. We have had lots of extra signups and now have around about £1100 a month. Two different sets of supporters spontaneously organised two different fundraisers. Not only did they bring in some much-needed cash, it was heart meltingly wonderful for all of us here at T4K. Thank you so much. We set up a brand spanking new website (as you  can see), check it out and share it with your friends.

Carrot cake 2.jpg

Some cake which might have been eaten at the fundraisers

By No machine-readable author provided. Dbenbenn assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

You, however, are probably more interested in the frontline work. A new resident moved into the new flat. They need a bit of stability and support so that they can find their feet in the UK as they begin to rebuild their life. You have made that possible, thank you. 3 people now have stable homes because of your support. We have also been able, in part thanks to the wonderful Positive Action in Housing and their Room for Refugees scheme and in part thanks to an incredibly generous landlord, been able to find housing for a woman and her two children and a man with complex immigration status. All the one-off fundraising has also been put to good use. Among other things, it’s purchased furniture and other essentials for a new home and helped ensure that people can maintain contact with their children while they sort out their immigration status. You can definitely claim to be making tangible difference to the lives of forced migrants in Brighton.

Our shoe strings are holding out well, but we very quickly need to raise another £500 per month if we are to meet our existing commitments. You are doing amazing things, but we need more people to do more amazing things. The situation is worsening. The numbers of people in the asylum system has been pretty constant for years (about 25,000 people a year are claiming asylum. Some of you might like to compare and contrast that with the estimated 2 ½ million Syrian refugees in Turkey alone, #justsaying).

Sausage Makers
By SchnäggliOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Nevertheless, services are becoming more stretched. That can mean only one thing: The Švankmajer-esque meat grinding machine is speeding up. As Pastor Niemöller might have put it had he been more drawn to post-war Czech animation, we better all stand together and help each other out if we don’t want to become sausage filling. But you know that. I am preaching to the converted. You are already taking collective action to protect the most vulnerable in our community, but hopefully it’s nice to be told that you are doing the right thing.

This newsletter is coming out late. The reason for that is we wanted to do something a bit different and give one of the residents a chance to communicate directly with you. It took a little bit of time to settle on a format, but in the end we thought we would do it as a conversation cum interview. So here it is:

KS: I am not sure where to begin, because my problem is been going on for many years now. Having all the support from the donors and fundraisers and everyone involved in this project makes a massive difference.

JB: But you are happy to talk about the project, right? Maybe you could tell us a bit about the old house.

KS: Sure. Being in the house makes a lot of difference. The old house was like a home. I feel comfortable in the area and the neighbours are very friendly. It’s a very quiet neighbourhood. It is also sad to be leaving the place you call home and the lovely, friendly neighbours. I really miss the area. I sometimes go cycling in the area thinking that I will bump in with some of the neighbours and say hi. Moving to the new house also makes a lot of differences in the sense that this new house is smaller than the old house, and it is also easy to maintain. Hence it is less crowded and is making a lot of improvement in my life.

JB: And what about the new house?

KS: This new house is very clean and nice. It is ideal for two people which is very good. The neighbours also are very friendly as well, and the location is good too. Not far from town and next to the park. I always go there and play my guitar which is very nice.

JB: What has been annoying?

KS: Not being able to see my kids. It is really frustrating and also as a father not being able to spend time with them, as you know. What I’ve been through, what I’m going through up-to-date, that’s annoying! Secondly my phone also is annoying me. It is my only means of communication with friends and important people in my life. The phone is an old one. The phone always goes off even in the middle of conversation. But I think the most important thing is having a roof over your head which I am really grateful for the support of whoever is involved to support the project to make a difference in the society.

JB: So what you do with yourself?

KS: My day-to-day activities are cycling. I do that every day or I go visits friends. I live in the city for so many years. I might cycle somewhere quiet and play my guitar sometimes I even come to your house. I am in your house almost every day because you are like my brother and I feel very comfortable around you because of the love you show me, and I thank you, thank you, thank you and a massive thank you, I don’t even know when to stop.

JB: Which makes me want to ask, how do you keep going? How are you still fighting? You’re so extraordinarily positive.

KS: First of all, I will thank our creator for giving me life and health to be here today and giving me two beautiful boys. Secondly I have faith. It is a journey that we are going through, but this journey has many bumpy roads which we have to overcome because no condition is permanent. Because I practice my religion and try to follow it. It teaches me to be patient, humble, kind and be tolerant and disciplined. I am only going on because of these terms. And I also believe that sometimes things do really happen to you, but you are not in control of it and that’s life, but you always have to find a solution for it. That’s life no matter what condition we are in, we still have to make the best use of it. I think that’s what keeps me going and getting stronger every day, I guess.

JB: So, you’re fundamentally optimistic?

KS: Yes. The new house is nice and clean too! Sometimes I get stressed about my kids and I will see things that I want to buy for them but I can’t get them because of my situation, but the house changes everything. At least I have somewhere to stay for now. I have also have the support of you guys and VIE and other charity organisations and fundraisers, donors and volunteers and other supporting groups. You are all doing wonderful support here. You’re improving people’s lives and making a lot of differences in the society. I don’t even know how to thank these charity organisations and their fundraisers. Once again thank you everybody for your time and efforts and your kindness for making differences in our lives.

JB: How are things with your new housemate?

KS: Things are going fine. The only problem we are having is communication barrier, but I guess we’ll work on that. Secondly, he’s not always in so by the time he comes in it is late already, and he is always in his room, but sometimes I called him to come and watch TV with me.

JB: Has having a home improved your social life?

KS: Yes, it has improved my social life. For a start a massive improvement, but I still have a long way to go with the support of everybody. Being in the country 17 years not being able to work, not even entitled to public funds or claim for benefit because of my immigration status. What about my kids? I am like a state prisoner. You are living in our country, established and settled here, have your own family here, but you don’t belong here. That’s how I feel the system is treating me I don’t think that is really fair on my kids. Their so-called human rights is being hijacked by their own government.

JB: Is there anything else you want to say?

KS: just a massive thanks to everybody that supports this project. Men/women, young and old. Everything is being appreciated from the bottom of my heart. Once again thank you.

Kusuma bike large.jpg
CC BY-SA 3.0, Link