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Sponsor a Runner

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!

You can donate to the fund by PayPal or by bank transfer using the details below. You can also claim Gift Aid on your donation by filling in the form below.

Bank Name: The Co-operative Bank
Account Name: Thousand 4 1000
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Account number: 65835171
Reference: DSFYOURNAME

Here are some useful links:
barclays, co-operative bank, halifax, hsbc, lloyds-tsb, nationwide, natwest, rbs, santander, tsb.

Gift Aid your donation

 

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House Wanted — T4K Spring Update

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).

People Eating
Dinner is served at the Rose Hill

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’siRefugee 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.

Red Heart

Refugee Valentine

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.

People Eating

Music was by Alaa (Oud and vocal), singing songs of Syria,

Alaa on the Oud

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.

Yamaya

The mood was joyful, the company unrivaled, and the event made more money than could have been anticipated.

Luqman Dancing

Help Wanted — T4K Jan Update

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.

heart-2004351

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.

Claude Monet - Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare - Google Art Project

Room at the Inn — T4K Christmas Update

I hope that you all had a lovely time this Christmas, whichever way you choose to spend it. Personally, I saw my parents on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day eating and watching films with some Muslim friends from various parts of West Africa. It was a cross continental, Jewish-Muslim Christmas. Much more excitingly, the family that you have all been so generous in supporting finally moved into their own flat on the 23rd. It was in the nick of time because they spent a large portion of their Christmas Day in hospital… On the Maternity Ward! A child was born on Christmas Day.

Enormous thanks have to go to you and to all of the incredible hard work from all the T4K volunteers (apart from me. I was sick in bed during the most stressful period.) Without the phenomenal support and kindness of so many people, the child would most likely have been born in Home Office emergency accommodation. It would have been a single room in a hostel somewhere in London. These places are not pleasant. They house newly arrived Asylum Seekers. As you can imagine, that is mostly young men many of whom are extremely traumatised and all of whom are under enormous strain. There is very little chance that the father of the family would have been with them. It would have been the 21st century equivalent of a manger in a stable. Instead, mother and baby were able to have a well-planned birth in a safe environment and to return to their very own home. I want to claim that it is a Christmas miracle, but it is not. It is nothing more than the result of people coming together to bring people in, rather than cast them out. It’s nothing less than that either. Truly, it’s a wonderful life. Thank you.

Screen Shot of It's a Wonderful Life
By National Telefilm Associates (Screenshot of the movie) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
If it is not enough that you have kept a family safe, you have also managed to bring one more refugee to safety. A man that has been here for 7 years, who had to make 3 claims for asylum, finally received his residence card. I will save the megilliah (long and convoluted story) for the new year, because it isn’t actually a happy tale. I will say this, along with a very sharp barrister, the thing that made the difference was your support. Because he had a home, he could focus on his case. He could find the witnesses he needed and prepare an irrefutable case. Your support has really been the difference between life and death. That’s no exaggeration.

I will sign off with a new years message from one of the residents…

Hello everyone out there, happy new year to you all. I hope that you all have a quality time with your families. I wish you all the best. I hope to meet you all in the new year.m New year, new vibes. Make sure that you come back safe from New Years Eve (I need your continuing support!). Thank you for all your support. Save some Turkey for me and have a great 2018. Keep praying for me. Here’s hoping 2018 brings you joy and me leave to remain. Thanks, KS.

Christmas Appeal

It is that time of year when families and friends come together to share a holiday together. Many of us send cards and gifts to our loved ones. More than any other time of year it’s a season of kindness, generosity and home.

This year there is a family in Brighton and Hove in crisis. They moved to Brighton from the other side of the world, seeking sanctuary. The government of the UK has not seen fit to grant it to them, but in the face of a hostile environment, they have stuck together and done what they can to flourish. They are expecting a new baby in January. The mother and the 2 children, who are both under 5, are living temporarily with a generous host family. They need a place of their own. That is only going to happen if the whole community helps.

This Christmas, we are selling these beautiful Christmas Cards to raise money for the family and others like them who are homeless in our city. Each card costs a pound, but you might also consider adding a years subscription to T4K to the price of the card and give that as a gift to your loved ones. You could also use the card to ask people to take out a subscription rather than give you a gift. If enough of us do that, then we can find a home for this family and make sure that their child is not born in a manger.

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Proof Reader Needed

One of our members, Luqman Onikosi, whilst struggling against the Home Office for his Right to Remain, is also writing a serious academic text on international education. The deadline for his publishers, Cambridge Scholar, is February. The person who was proofreading it for Luqman, isn’t going to be able to complete the task in time. He needs somebody who can check the spelling and grammar on 74,000 words of radical scholarship. It will probably take about 3 hours a week of your time. Can you help? He can pay a very small amount of money, but major reward would be a deep insight into postcolonial understandings of the University.

Be in touch if you can help.

Straddling the Border, T4k October Update

I have been gallivanting in Asturias in Spain. I am now back and, although I should be pleased because we seem to have a monthly income that nearly equals our monthly commitments (thank you, thank you), I am actually very angry.

I am very angry because I have come straight back into the mess that is trying to assist people who are trapped on the wrong side of the border find housing. I came back from a country where, although the border is visible to those who know how to look for it, I don’t know how to look for it. I returned here where all I can see is the iniquity of the system. 2 similar cases appeared on our doorstep. They both highlight the narrowness and the meanness of the law. In both cases a woman and children fled their accommodation in the North because they were suffering from abuse to come to be with people they knew down here. I will tell you about one of them but much the same applies to the other.

The woman in question has 2 children and is 7 months pregnant. She comes from a country where, although there isn’t much in the way of state infrastructure, the state isn’t actively persecuting people. She been forced to leave because her family wanted to force her into marriage with a much older polygamist. When she refused, they beat her up. She came here and claimed asylum. The case is ongoing, but of course she’s had an initial refusal.

The understanding of who needs protection is tortuously tight. You can only claim asylum if you’re being persecuted because of some aspect of your identity. You also have to be being persecuted by a state actor or unable to avail yourself of the protection of the state. Now, you might be able to claim (with a good lawyer) that you are being persecuted precisely because you are a woman. Our woman and her family won’t be safe back home. The Home Office argue that, despite the prevalence of FGM, woman are not persecuted where she origininates and that there is a legal system which functions, so she is protected. Anyway, they say, she can move to a different part of the country away from her abusers; away from any support she might have. She doesn’t come from a rich country. Without a community to support her she won’t have any safe way of looking after herself and her children. None of that matters to the Home Office. As far as they’re concerned, she’s not being persecuted or neglected by any political authorities and “we” don’t have any requirement to offer her sanctuary.

Of course, while she makes the navigates the opaque asylum system and tries to get a head round the abstruse legal arguments she has to make, the state very kindly provided some substandard accommodation for her. It was a long way from Brighton where she has a community to support her and where, in fact, her partner and father of her children lives. Of course, he doesn’t have any status and is himself living from hand to mouth trying to establish his complex right to remain. Isolated and fearful in her Home Office provided accommodation, she experienced racist abuse and a serious levels of stress and anxiety. Before she had a breakdown, she, sensibly enough, returned to Brighton to be with her husband and community.

The community was able to pay for 3 weeks in a hostel while she tried to persuade the local authority that they should house her and her children. She was turned down because if you’re eligible for asylum support housing, the local authority is not allowed to provide housing under the Children’s Act (that’s the law that gives them the power to provide housing and, in some circumstances, a duty to do so) We are going to have one more go today, but the prospects look grim. We have been able to pay for a bit of extra time in the hostel, but it’s £40 per night in the week and £85 at the weekend. If we had that money, we could rent them a house. We are praying that the amazing Room for Refugees or Refugees at Home might come through, but who on earth has room in their house for a family of 4? If you do have a spare house going, please let us know.

It’s grim, but this family is not the only one. Like I said, we’ve got another similar case on our books but, it’s not quite our area, so we’ve roped in a different organisation to take it on. We know that there are homeless care leavers in Brighton who have had their appeal rights exhausted. Care leavers who similarly come from countries that are clearly unsafe for them to live in, but don’t fall within the narrow definition of the refugee conventions.

Back home in Brighton, I see the border everywhere. It’s an extraordinary sensation. I had spent the day scrabbling to make sense of this family’s situation and what might be done, and then went out for somebody’s birthday drinks. I’m sure that we spent upwards of £50 on entertaining ourselves. It’s not an outrageous thing to do, but it’s a princely sum to the people on the wrong side of the border. They seem to live on air. The day before the awesome Rebel Yarns had organised a community sewing of her beautiful welcome blanket at our Tuesday cafe at the Cowley Club. It was a wonderful, joyous, warm event. The women, and it was almost all women, who came to sew came from both sides of the border. We have no need to exclude people. The Church of Stop Shopping turned up to sing to us to thank us and even made me a saint. On Friday, I had given a talk to a full house at the Dome as part of the TEDx conference. It was an event dedicated to community projects which try to make our world a richer and more diverse place. Everybody loved the project. And although I find it heartwarming and inspiring that so many people reject the politics of division and exclusion, I can’t help but be angry that, with all this goodwill people, are still systematically excluded from our communities. The chinks in the fence get narrower and more and more people have their lives destroyed when so many are so willing to give them their support.

I know that the best thing to do about it is to keep expanding projects like this one. You can do that by signing up your friends, buying these beautiful cards and prints of the welcome blanket, and generally spreading the word. The more we expand projects like ours, the more people are brought in to the community and the more ridiculous having a hostile border becomes. That’s my hope anyway.