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Refugee Week

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:

Refugee Week Listings
Refugee Week Events
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Victories — T4K May Update

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.

Ali by a tree
Ali comes home

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.

Shadi gives a speech
Shadi thanks his friends

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 sj@sajidjavid.com or private.office.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk 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.

Luqman carries a pot of maqluba
Luqman brings in the maqulba

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.

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

 

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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To order some cards, please fill in this form. We will be in touch about delivery and payment:



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.