It’s cold outside. I hope that inside you are full of warmth and cheer. I apologise for the delay in producing this newsletter. I have returned to university. I am studying law. I have not done fantastically at managing my time.
But enough of me. There are some great events coming up. The first one is tomorrow. It is the Rose Tinted Spectacular Reboot zine fair at the Rose Hill. It is a celebration of all things printed and made, featuring zines, small press publications, are and other delights from the South East’s most talented and enthusiastic DIY creators. It is being held in our honour. As they say: Optimism! Solidarity! Zines! Doors are at 12:00.
The second one is one is our quiz night with music. It is on 27 January 2024 (oh how time flies) at the Exeter Street Hall. Doors are 6:30 for a 7:00 p.m. start. It is £15 ono a head and includes dinner. There is a bar, there is a raffle (I think) and the best trivia from humanities store cupboard of arcane information. You cannot say fairer than that.
Banish the winter blues
Speaking of cold, heating is still very expensive. As we are getting old
and reasonably successful, we have quite a penumbra of former residents
who are making their own way in the world. Most of them are still on a
low income. They do still need a bit of support from time to time. In
the past, some kind souls have donated their winter fuel payments. That
is very touching. This year we are doing it a little bit more formally.
If you would like to help somebody with their heating this year, we have
just the campaign for you. So if you’re lucky enough to receive the
winter fuel payment and not need (all) of it, or even if you just want
to chip in, you can make a donation by bank transfer to:
Bank Name: The Co-operative Bank
Account Name: Thousand 4 1000 R/C 1171590
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Account number: 65835171
Or you can do it through PayPal.
One of the odd things about doing migrant solidarity work is how removed
your day-to-day experience of the immigration and asylum system is from
the headlines in the paper. It was a great relief, of course, when the Supreme Court came down against the Rwanda plan.
Some of the more extreme proposals as to how to get round the ruling
brought the worry straight back. I have been using my course as an
excuse to try to think about the significance of the judgment (one thing
I have learnt is that you have to spell “judgment” like that when
talking about a court decision). Most of this week and last week had me
frantically reading various commentaries and poring over their
Lordships’ speech. I had a bit of time today and so I used that to catch
up on some of the support work I have been neglecting.
A young asylum seeker from southern Africa popped round to talk about how to lodge an appeal against the Home Office’s refusal of his claim. We also talked about how to look for a lawyer. His friend came over too and we had a long freewheeling chat about this and that. It meandered between life in the UK, politics, love and reassuring him that he was on the right track. Underpinning the whole conversation was his despair at his situation. Fortunately another friend from the Jollof Café came round for a cup of tea and I think that we were able to help him feel a bit better about himself and the future.
Whilst all that was going on, I had a message from a former resident who has just moved house. He has not been in our accommodation for many years, but we keep in touch. He wanted some help setting up an Internet connection for his new place. It was nice and easy and it was lovely to catch up with an old friend.
Finally, some four hours late, another young asylum seeker arrived for assistance to complete his application for asylum support. He is part of a cohort asylum seekers who had been housed in one of the hotels in Brighton. His hotel closed this week. Thanks to the hard work of some extraordinary people, who prefer to remain nameless, he is studying full-time at Sussex University. The University, rather than see him moved to the Bibby Stockholm barge, agreed to fund accommodation for him and a few others on campus. This is a really fantastic victory.
Of course, if you leave asylum accommodation to live in accommodation somebody else provides, the Home Office stops all of your support. Instead of automatically moving you over to the “subsistence only” version of the support, they make you reapply. There will be at least six weeks wait before he can get any money. Your support will keep him eating, don’t worry. Meanwhile we had to fill in a long and badly designed form. There are two versions of the form: an uneditable PDF or a Word document so terribly put together that if you input any text the formatting goes haywire. Anyway, we had fun doing that and I got to know a lovely, young man a little bit better.
I don’t bring all of this up because I want brownie points. Other members of the team work much harder and do much more complicated things. I’m limiting myself to writing emails and filling in the odd form. I bring it up because the contrast between the warm, full humanity of the individuals concerned and the screaming, dehumanising rhetoric is just so stark. Honestly, mostly what I did today was drink tea and chat. Nobody was a small boat. Everybody was a big human.
Even the “good guys” in the Rwanda saga don’t operate on the human plane. This is not a criticism of the Supreme Court judges. It’s not their fault that the law is not concerned with the joy and suffering of an individual. They were asked to rule on the legality of a scheme. As you might expect, they looked at the various international and domestic instruments relevant to that question. They concluded that for the purposes of the law in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Rwanda could not be considered a “safe third country”. What they did not and could not do was turn round and say, “what on earth are you playing at? Why do you care so much about these normally wonderful human beings and what they get up to? Go away and stop being so ridiculous”.
We can never get that from the court. We have to go beyond that whole way of thinking. I don’t know how we do it. A good first step is to open our eyes and our hearts to another possibility. Most people are already there. I didn’t write this newsletter last week because I was at a wedding in Cornwall. It was the wedding of another former resident. It was a pretty intimate affair. I suspect that if you calculated the average distance of the guests’ birthplaces from the registry office, it would have been more than three standard deviations from the mean for St Austell. I might be wrong. All of us have been to a wedding like that. We have to take that experience, that knowledge of love and humanity, and make that the basis of the way we organise our communities and our response to strangers. When we do anyone trying to imprison some of us on barges or send some of us to Rwanda will just have to go away and stop being so ridiculous.
A thousand thanks,
Jacob and all of us at t4k