Foot stomping, blood pumping music — T4K Feb/Mar update

Hello everybody,

Ramadan Karim. Apologies for not sending out a newsletter last month. I am blaming the incredible misery of winter. I think that spring has almost sprung. It feels close to lamb like and the Brighton Festival brochure is out. I hope that you have been doing better than me.


Jacob Berkson with Adriana Lord

If you missed out, don’t worry. Our big news is that we have our own mini version of Refugee Valentine coming up on April 23 at the Brunswick Pub. It is a bit of a new departure for us. We are going to be having an evening of footstomping, blood pumping music. There is local-Brazilian samba band Samba Roda Viva and London-based indie pop band vernons future. It is quite a lineup.

Poster from event on 23 April at the Brunswick

Doors open at 19:30 and tickets are available through Eventbrite for just £10.

By the by, if you do want the authentic self support group, Jollof Café experience, but can never make Wednesday lunchtime at the West Hill Hall, do not despair. They are putting on an evening version of the café at St Peter’s church in Hove on April 14. It is going to be an Iftar meal to celebrate one of our members winning her refugee status. It promises to be a good one.

The Bill for Illegalising Immigration

You will have no doubt seen that the government, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the way to deal with the £6.2 million daily cost of keeping up asylum seekers in hotels indefinitely is to provide even worse accommodation, on disused airfields, prison barges and cruise ships. It goes without saying that the reason that they have to use hotels is because they are unable to make decisions promptly and they have built up a backlog of about three years’ worth of asylum seekers. If they were interested in the economics of it, they could nearly cut that cost in half by giving each of the current 120,000 or so asylum seekers £30 a day. Politically it might be problematic as there are people on universal credit who have to get by on less than that. Better yet, they could just let people work and claim those benefits. The government would be quids in.

I only bring up the economics because it shows how ludicrous everything is. Unfortunately, it is a risky strategy. The main opposition party seems to have decided to oppose the proposals on the grounds that they are too expensive and that they won’t work to deter asylum seekers. No doubt they are right on both fronts, but it is equally depressing. We should not be trying to deter asylum seekers at all. We should be trying to work towards a world where you are not forced to leave the country of your birth, but if you have to or choose to do so, you are free to go and build your life elsewhere in a country of your choosing.

Here in Brighton there are around about 200 people in hotels. Some of them are in families. Some of them are single men or single women. Every one of them has been through trauma. There are probably another hundred or so asylum seekers living either in Home Office housing or staying with friends. After that there are a number of people whose asylum claim has been rejected or who have perfectly understandable reasons for having come here but who have never made an asylum claim or never had a chance to make an asylum claim. They form a kind of penumbra, forced to live on the margins. Of course, if the government manages to push through its aptly named “illegal immigration bill”, almost everybody will enter into that penumbra. The government is planning to bar people who enter the country without official permission from their right to claim asylum. It means that the vast majority of people will simply disappear into the margins.

What (more) You Can Do

What does this all mean for us? It means that we have to up our game. I have no doubt that this city has the capacity to house all 300 or so people who are very much in the spotlight. I have been fundraising long enough to know that we are never going to raise the £300,000 a month or so it would probably cost to do it. It would require a change of heart by the state. But, as I jokingly pointed out above, the resources are available.

Even if we cannot manage to house 300 people, we can certainly do better than we are. Here are some of the people, I am currently worried about. There is the very sick woman we are housing, but whom we might not be able to continue to house given our increased rental costs. She is the only one of our current residents with any statutory options, but we have to fight like hell to keep her in Brighton. Dispersal from Brighton to a hotel is unthinkable. There are two men, one in his 50s and one in his 60s from East Africa whose strong asylum claims were rejected by, shall we say, unsympathetic judges. The decisions are just awful but, unusually, the claims had been well prepared. It means that it is difficult to see what fresh evidence can be brought. Removal will be unlikely, but their ongoing accommodation relies on them having a claim in with the Home Office. The community may well be their only hope. There are four gay men and two gay woman from various homophobic countries who are all precariously housed, but prefer the precarity to dispersal away from Brighton and into stressful Home Office accommodation. All of those people are before we come to the single women housed in mixed gender hotel accommodation, and the families, and the single men well integrated into and well loved by the community all of whom would rather stay in Brighton that kick up a fuss and be accommodated more suitably elsewhere. We have to find a way of making more homes.

Here is what you can do. I know that you do so much already, but if you can please help. We need more donors and we need more hosts. Talk to your friends. The best way to get supporters is through word-of-mouth. If each of us manage to sign up one more person this month, we would double our income. I have no doubt that all of us have at least one conversation a month despairing about the government’s latest proposals and the opposition’s pathetic response. Use that opportunity to tell your friends about what they can do. There is no better response to state led hostility to refugees, then helping to make homes. Tell your friends that.

We also want to go to talk to interested groups. If you’re part of a club or a project which is looking for speakers, we will be there in a flash. We need to spread the message of love, joy and recurring micro-donations.

If you have a spare room, or know somebody who has a spare room, think about signing up to Room for Refugees. Some great friendships have been formed, but we are running out of hosts. Wonderfully, people who have volunteered in the past now have Ukrainian refugees living with them. That scheme is proof that welcome is possible. We just need to expand it to all refugees everywhere, but that means more hosts.

Lastly, and I say this with a heavy heart, can you think about increasing your monthly donation? A lot of us signed up back when we were only asking for £1 a month. Perhaps that is you and you can afford a little more. Don’t worry if you cannot, we really need more people, not more money from the same number of people. One of the issues is that our direct payment provider, gocardless, has started charging us more money per transaction. They used to charge 1% of the total. They now also charge us 1% and a 20p flat charge. We are only getting 79p out of every £1 pound donation. There is a simple solution. You can give us the money by standing order:

Bank Name: The Co-operative Bank
Account Name: Thousand 4 1000 R/C 1171590
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Account number: 65835171
Reference: SO-YOURNAME

The main thing is though that you keep doing what you are doing. You keep believing in a different approach to migration, in the joy that comes from diversity and in the possibility of making space for all. See you at the Brunswick on April 23.

A thousand thanks,
Jacob and all of us at T4K

PS. What do people think about the new date format? Should I revert to 23 April?