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Hail Guest, T4K September Update

Greetings to you from the mountains of Asturias. I was feeling quite burnt out by constant firefighting that all of us at T4K have to do. The hostile environment exerts unending pressure on people on the wrong side of the border, breaking up families and destroying lives. Like all good wrecking machines, it also bears down on anyone, however marginal, who happens to be in its way. Fortunately, I (still) have the right colour passport and friends in a collective in the mountains of northern Spain. I have taken a belated summer holiday. This is not a possibility for the people you are supporting to the tune of £1400 or so per month.

We are nearly there. If you can, please help expand the project by spreading the word and signing up your friends. Personally, however down I get, the thought that so many people have come together in the face of a hostile and racist political environment to welcome strangers into our town always renews my faith in the possibility of making over our communities into ones of kindness and compassion, rather than ones based on mistrust and selfishness.

Before I get onto the good news that I promised you last month, I want to let you know about a fantastic project that will give you an excuse to sign up more of your friends and family. If you have ever driven down the A23 into Brighton, you will probably have noticed two stone pillars flanking the carriageway. These are the Patcham Pylons and, what you might not know, is that they were erected to welcome people to Brighton. Inscribed on the pylons is the following poem:

West_Pylon,_A23_(London_Road),_Patcham_(NHLE_Code_1381679)
By The Voice of Hassocks (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hale guest, we ask not what thou art.

If friend, we greet thee, hand & heart.

If stranger, such no longer be.

If foe, our love shall conquer thee.

 

(It is cheesy, but it always brings a lump to my throat).

Local artist, Rebel Yarns, has crocheted the poem into a blanket which she will give to one of the families you are supporting. Before the grand handover on November 14 at the Friends Meeting House, Rebel Yarns is inviting people to sponsor a square in a beautiful echo of the original subscription to put up the pylons. Anyone who sets up a subscription or donates more than £10 can have their name crocheted onto the blanket. You could have viewed the blanket at the World Transformed Conference this weekend. You can also join a public sewing of the names onto the blanket at the Cowley Club on October 24. There are also cards and prints available with the proceeds going to us.

The good news: the count of people who have received papers as a result of your support is now 2. Abdul, not his real name, 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 will explain next month, there is no way that Abdul could have made it without you. Thank you so much. Abdul doesn’t want me to share details until he has his card in his hands. He’s terrified that it could still go wrong, though if it does Rudd will find herself facing another contempt of court charge.

Because I cannot yet tell you the story, I will leave you with a little reflection on the legal system. It seems to me that the way that you win your immigration case is to prove that you are the exception. You can be granted a right to remain here because you have a family life here or because you are in need of humanitarian protection. The actual process requires you to make an application to the Home Office, have that rejected, and then argue your case before a judge. Such a system has to be underpinned by the presumption that the vast majority of applicants do not need to be in the UK and can live equally well elsewhere. A successful appeal in the immigration tribunals generally seems to require showing that you (sotto voce, unlike other applicants) have a pressing and unusual need to live here.

Michael Dummett September 2004Now, as Michael Dummett pointed out in his book on immigration and refugees, “On Immigration and Refugees” (that is honestly a hilarious philosophy of language joke), everybody has a right to live somewhere, but it does not automatically follow that everyone has somewhere to live. If we want it to follow, then we have to build an international legal framework that allows for international migration. The system here, with its presumption that only the exception requires protection, must assume that for the vast majority of people there is somewhere (else) that they can live. However, the idea that everyone has a place where they belong is simply false. This is why we see the horror of semi-permanent refugee camps all round the world.

Our current legal system presumes that people belong where they were born, but there are all sorts of reasons why you might need to build a life for yourself elsewhere. You might face massive persecution because of your ethnicity, sexuality, your gender or your political beliefs. You might find yourself in the midst of a civil war or an economic crisis. You might, indeed, feel the urge to recreate yourself in a new country. Here in Asturias, for example, the abundance of cheap, fertile land has attracted plenty of disgruntled neo-rural anti-capitalists from across the Spanish state, the European Union and even further afield. But because the law assumes that you have no need to be here, it grants you no right to be here, and, because that assumption is false, there are probably over half a million people living here under the radar (618,000 people was the median figure given by the LSE in 2009). Being under the radar leaves you very vulnerable. It is therefore no surprise that over 250,000 immigrants are destitute. Thousand 4 1000 will not be able to solve the whole problem. It will, however, if we can expand a little bit, ensure that nobody is homeless in Brighton because of their immigration status. It also gives the people you support a chance to prove that they are the exception. So for that, a thousand thanks.

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Help Ali Come Home

The fees for an immigration application are eye-watering. Often, however strong your case, there’s no way for you to claim your Right to Remain. We’ve started a chuffed page to raise money so that Ali can finally escape the nets of the immigration system. He’s written you this short letter explaining his situation:

Hi,
My name is Ali. I am 44. I have been in the UK since 2007. During this time, I did my best to be a helpful person for my family and people around me. Also, I tried to adopt the culture by learning English. I married and did what I could to improve my life by education and being qualified as a gas engineer.
I had to apply for a visa couple of times in order to work, but my current visa will run out this October. I have to send an application which costs £2,297, excluding solicitor costs, to the Home office in a very short period of time.
For the first four years I was here I didn’t have the right to work and have never been able to get support from the government, but once I was granted my visa, I have worked in order to support my family. I have no complaints about that, I have always managed to get by. I am recently qualified and started to work, but with all the life expenses supporting a family with three boys, I can’t afford this fee for the application at all. Without making this application I won’t be able to be with my family, work or stay in the country.
I am embarrassed to have to ask for your help, but I don’t have any other option. I have to find the money so that I can be there for my boys and so that I can continue to live in this wonderful town.

Thank you,
Ali

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