Eid Mubarak to everybody. It is super fun to be able to send out a newsletter on the exact day of a major festival. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Eid al-Adha is somewhat limited. I have the basics down, it celebrates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmail, but beyond that I’m lost. If I was a truly globally minded person, I would be able to say something of relevance. Do be in touch to enlighten my ignorance.
Strength to Strength
I am less ignorant about what Thousand 4 1000 has been up to. The two moves that we did last month went well. The family are settling into their new house and are super happy that they have a bit more space to breathe in. The two new T4K residents are also setting up home. There are the usual teething problems, finding a bed that fits down the narrow staircase, getting the agent to fix the small (and sometimes larger) snags, working out how the new kitchen works and so on and so on. I’ve not been directly involved, so for me it’s just wonderful that the project has reached this new level.
Speaking of which, for some reason, I had to look up information about us on the Charity Commission website. I realised that we only incorporated in 2017 and we now have an income of about £80,000 a year. Almost all of that money is coming from small individual donations and, bar a tiny amount, it’s all being used to provide houses and financial support to people trapped on the wrong side of the border. It made me happy. I also think that you should all be very proud of yourselves. It is a collective effort and it is making an enormous difference to individuals and our community. Thank you all so much.
Cup of Kindness
Of course, the project still needs to grow. We can continue to fully subsidise the two new women until spring next year. If we are going to carry on supporting two people beyond that, we need to increase our monthly income by another £600. (Incidentally, we are pretty confident that at least one of the two of them will have been able to move on by the spring. She has an unimpeachable case for leave to remain and is simply waiting for the Home Office to make a decision. It’s been 10 months and counting). If the average monthly donation is £3, which it is roughly, that is only another 200 people. That must be doable. Tell your friends that, for the price of a cup of coffee a month, they can be part of the coolest project in the UK (and help prevent homelessness amongst forced migrants, obviously).
Masks for All
We also decided that future mask money would be used for general purposes. The Covid fund still needs topping up, but the masks are so wonderful and the community so generous that it makes sense to redirect some of the money to the core purpose of making homes. They have the added purpose of helping to slow the spread of coronavirus and so, with a bit of luck, this pandemic will eventually get under control. Here’s hoping.
Some of you might’ve seen the campaign for Anugwom. His case is close to our heart because he friends with some of the people in the Jollof Café. He is a young man, originally from Nigeria, who grew up there with his grandmother. The rest of his family live here in the UK. He came to study in Brighton on a student visa, whilst he was here, sadly, his grandmother died. He has nothing and nobody to go back to in Nigeria, so he made an application for Leave to remain in the UK. He had looked at the regulations and understood that, under the European Convention of Human Rights, everybody is meant to have a right to a private and family life. As all of Anugwom’s family is here in the UK, you might think that it would be a breach of his rights to force him to go back to Nigeria.
Those of you who have any experience with “family life” applications will know that your right to a family life is not an absolute right. It can be breached if the public interest in removing you from the UK justifies preventing you from enjoying your family life. It’s worth noting that the scales are heavily weighted in favour of the Home Secretary. She can justify your removal from the UK, if she can show that it’s not going to be unduly harsh on the rest of your family members to relocate with you. I guess that the logic is that it is then you who decided to give up on your family life. As this excellent article makes clear, the net effect is that you have a right to a family life, but not a right to a family life in the UK. It’s the same logic that allows the imposition of the minimum income requirements that keep huge numbers of families apart. But anyway, Anugwom, one might think, being an intelligent, kind, law-abiding, hard-working, trained healthcare worker who had been doing, when he still had a visa, care for coronavirus patients would be just the person for whom there could be no possible public interest in removing. Giving him leave to remain would be a win-win. Anugwom would get to enjoy his right to a family life and the UK would get the benefit of his essential labour.
Alas, that’s not how it works. Parliament has legislated that there is always a public interest in removing people who don’t fit the criteria laid down in Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules. The rules define the majority of situations in which you can be given leave on the grounds of your family life. It’s a crude summary, but for a law-abiding citizen, you need to be a child, have a child for whom you provide care or have a long-term partner with whom you live. In other words, in any other situation, not only is there a public interest in your removal, the presumption is that that this alleged interest in your removal is so great that it justifies denying you the chance to enjoy your private and family life here.
All is not lost for Anugwom. The Home Secretary has the power to make exceptions and the courts can also find that your situation is not covered by the rules but still be one in which the breach to his private and family life would be disproportionate. You can support Anugwom in his campaign to remain by signing and sharing this petition.
Private Life, Free Movement and the Border
His case has also given me pause for thought. Anugwom got in contact with me for help about a month back. He wanted legal advice which I couldn’t possibly give him, so I pointed him towards some law firms in London, where he now lives. What I didn’t do is share his amazement and anger that the UK felt he had no right to be here. I think that I must have become a bit inured to the cruelty of the situation. Fortunately for Anugwom, there are far more imaginative people than me out there. Friends and strangers who have heard about his situation have rallied round to campaign for him to stay. It’s a long shot, but I should definitely have tried.
It also made me realise something else: maintaining a border that selectively restricts the mobility of anybody not considered white is incompatible with a commitment to human rights. If we are to have a system of rights, then one of them must be the right to develop and enjoy private, familial and intimate relations in any way you see fit, as long as it’s not harmful to others. But people’s lives are messy. Plenty of adults are going to be in Anugwom’s position and discover that, contrary to the vast majority of people in similar situations, they want their intimate life to be somewhere other than the place of their birth. As a white European, it rarely occurs to me that there might be something to prevent me from, for example, getting a job in Lagos and relocating to Nigeria. It seems to me that, as the Americans would have it, it is one of my rights to pursue happiness.
It seems to me, that European countries need to look the problem squarely in the face and make a choice between three positions. The first is to maintain the border by etiolating the commitment to rights to such an extent that they are purely nominal. That’s the way the law has gone with the right to a private and family life. The second is to maintain a commitment to the universality of human rights by denying humanity to anybody racialised as other. That’s the unspoken myth that allows Europe to maintain its conception of itself as the enlightened, progressive ones committed to universal human rights. The last is to reaffirm a commitment to the humanity of all and to the rights of all by recognising that freedom of movement is, regardless of the colour of your skin, one of your fundamental human rights.
Jacob and everyone at T4K