I feel a little bit sad because it seems like summer is coming to an end. I am hoping that that is not a sentiment shared by you wonderful people. You deserve eternal summer next to the river of bliss. The reason for that is simple. You are spreading joy by bringing safety to people who would otherwise be condemned to the perpetual drizzle of a Home Office imposed nightmare. Thank you. Not that this matters, but your kindness will also sustain me as the gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Enough pretentious references. The really fantastic news is that you have taken on another house. Unfortunately, it’s not because the cup of kindness campaign has been so successful that we suddenly have another £1000 a month, but rather it was the best way to secure a tenancy for a man with refugee status. As the JCWI proved in court, there is systematic discrimination against people with unusual -looking documents in the housing market. It’s testament to the trust that we’ve been able to build up with estate agents, that we can enter into this sort of agreement and thus support people to rebuild their lives in Brighton and Hove.
Cup of Kindness
The cup of kindness campaign is going well and mask sales are holding steady. Do keep spreading the word. We do need more money. One thing that would be super helpful is if people could send short testimonies, preferably with a picture, as to why they support t4k? Here’s an example for you:
Hello, I’m Angela and I donate to T4K. I’m a pensioner. I like the idea of welcoming refugees to our beautiful city and I wish we could help many more. Refugees are part of all of us, and I know that many have been through terrible and dangerous journeys before they arrive here to seek sanctuary. I’m proud of the residents of Brighton and Hove who come forward to donate whatever they can to help.
Not only would it be really useful in encouraging other people to donate to the project, we would be able to create a wonderful gallery of welcome. Please, please and thank you. Send your testimony to email@example.com and we'll do the rest....
More Than Half Full
I think that the real reason that I have been feeling down is that there has been so much bad news. We have had the heartbreaking, unnecessary death of Mercy Beguma. We have had the spectacle of Britain First harassing refugees in the dumps that the Home Office accommodate people in. The Home Secretary has been posturing about putting the Navy in the channel to prevent people claiming asylum here. Then, to top it all off, the Home Office has chartered flights to remove as many people as the can under the Dublin Regulations before the UK leaves the EU (and then getting cross with “activist lawyers” when judges rule that what they’re doing is unlawful). It’s also depressing.
Fortunately, I have a wonderful brother-in-law. It’s fortunate for a lot of reasons, but this time it was because, unbeknownst to him, he re-tweeted something, that made me think more cheerfully. It cheered me up, because I thought that it was wrong. It was a variation on the old theme that the rich and powerful get away with being rich and powerful by persuading most of the rest of us at our problems can be blamed on asylum seekers. I’m not saying that the rich and powerful don't try to blame asylum seekers for other people's problems. I just don’t think it works.
I know we all live in our own little social media bubble and so on, but the hatred of asylum seekers among the general population is not so massive. I remember chatting to the director of Refugee Radio a year or so ago. He said that when he started out doing this sort of work, back in the Blairite heyday, people treated his support for refugees and asylum seekers as something dubious, problematic or worse. Now the support pours in. The far right might take pleasure in harassing people desperate enough to attempt the channel crossing in overloaded dinghies, but an unincorporated group of activists, Channel Rescue, were able to raise nearly £20,000 within a couple of weeks to launch a project to defend people making the crossing. The well-established, wonderful, do everything on a shoestring Kent Refugee Action Network, went from being an organisation that had 900 or so followers on Twitter to one that had over 12,000 within the space of a week. They also raised £25,000 to support new arrivals in Kent.
Because of that groundswell at the grassroots level, the mainstream has been emboldened. The JCWI led a coalition with some pretty big names calling for safe routes to the UK for refugees (personally I think they should be calling for a visa free travel. If people can get here, they can claim asylum. If people have to wait in home countries or refugee camps for our incompetent Home Office, they’re going to be making the trip irregularly anyway). Everybody in the sector, and even some local authorities, are part of Refugee Action’s coalition calling for an end to the ban on asylum seekers working. There have also been loud calls to scrap the no recourse to public funds condition on visas. Mercy Beguma’s death led to one of the most senior politicians in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon, called the U.K.’s asylum system “not just broken but deeply inhumane”. I am also hoping that it led to a surge of signups to host with Positive Action in Housing’s, a charity that has been doing what it can to support asylum seekers in Glasgow, Room for Refugee scheme. Within Westminster, at least Zarah Sultana, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Diane Abbott at least (I'm not much of a Westminister watcher) all spoke up against the Dublin Removals. There are even some Conservative MPs who are opposed to indefinite immigration detention.
The tide is turning. I hope so anyway. It seems to me that it’s time to stop believing that people in the UK are so warped as to have lost their basic human impulse to hospitality. We need to carry on giving the lie to the idea that racism and anti-immigrant politics are populist. It’s not even that the population has been gulled into hating strangers. Given half a chance, huge numbers of people in the UK would welcome strangers. We need to keep building projects like this one not only to shelter people from the deleterious effects of the hostile environment, but also to dismantle their walls and use the bricks to build bridges.
Maybe next month, the KRAN magic will rub off on us and will have 10,000 subscribers. You never know.
Jacob and all of us at T4K