Thousand 4 1000 – September Update

Autumn, season of mists and all that, has arrived. Some people seem to like autumn. They get all excited by the mellow fruitfulness. Frankly, apples aside, I would rather hymn the spring. (Okay, enough showing off that I’ve read Keats). The thousand 4 1000 house goes well. It is fully occupied and the housemates are frustrated over the cleanliness of the bathroom – the mundane irritations of shared living. It would be better, of course, if they didn’t occur, but, at least, what what once, wrongly, seemed like an impossible luxury – a roof over your head, is now, rightly, taken for granted, and the worry becomes how to make your house a place you want to live. That this is possible is down to each and every one of the supporters. Thank you so much.

Together you are contributing £600 per month. This is fantastic. More is needed. We only have this house until February. At housing benefit rates, four bedroomed houses are £1500 a month, then there are bills on top. In the worst-case scenario the income needs tripling by February. We are on the lookout for landlords who can afford a pay cut to help out, so keep your ears to the ground and your nose to the trail. You could also, at less risk to your head and neck, share this text on Facebook:

Thousand 4 £1000 is a community response to enforced homelessness among forced migrants. Sign up to give just £1 a month to help house someone in Brighton. Be one of the thousand people making #Space4All!

Around 6000 people a year come to the end of the asylum process and, usually for Kafkaesque legal reasons, cannot leave the country. Finding work, at that point, is a criminal activity and state support is withdrawn. The number of homeless people in that position in Brighton is in double digits. People are street homeless. You can help by being 1 of 1000 people who give as little as £1 a month. That money is used to cover the costs of making a home for someone made homeless for the non-crime of crossing borders. Please sign up at thousand41000.org to help make Brighton a #SpaceForAll.

by clicking this link: Share on Facebook

You could even copy-paste the text, or write your own, into an email to a few friends. You are doing so much already, but, as they say, ‘if not you, who? And if not now, when?’

Before I sign off, I thought I would essay a thought on the recent history of migration and the refugee conventions. Hannah Arendt, I think in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (it might be “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, mind), remarks that, although it is generally easy enough to leave a country, it can be very hard to enter another. You will live the true horror of that statement if you find yourself trapped in one of the numerous refugee camps around the world. I believe, though my source is my faulty memory, that it is precisely this thought that motivates the adoption of the refugee conventions. There was, in the aftermath of the Second World War, an awareness of the true horror of Arendt’s insight. The refugee conventions were put in place so that there would always be a route into a country if you were resourceful enough to find your way out of another.

Now, you might assume that the strategies put in place in the aftermath of the Second World War have broken down in the face of the scale of contemporary forced migration (current estimates have it at around 65 million people forced onto the move. That’s about 1% of the current world population). However, I don’t think that’s right. I can’t quickly find all the figures, but the aftermath of 1945 saw an enormous shifting of populations. Displacement of people during the war and the redrawing of the European map meant that 20 million people found themselves in search of a new home. But it wasn’t only Europe that was recreating itself politically, old-style imperialism was giving way to the neo variety. New states were created, and new states mean new expulsions. In the Middle East, Jews were kicked out of newly-formed Arab states and Arabs were forced out of a newly-formed Jewish state (before anybody loses their reason, writing about Palestine is a recipe for disaster, I’m not claiming any moral equivalence or making any moral judgement). In Asia, Hindus found themselves unwelcome in newly created Pakistan and Muslims found themselves unwelcome in the new India. Similarly in Africa, though my knowledge here is much shakier, the creation of independent states resulted in large-scale human movement. It’s my bet that as significant numbers of Senegalese, Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians came to France, even larger numbers moved within the continent itself. It tends to work that way. The Africans of Asian descent in Kenya and Uganda found life increasingly precarious in their home country. There are now large diasporas.

And here is the point, almost all of these people were able, eventually, to find new homes for themselves in new parts of the world. The obvious exception is the Palestinians. Borders remained relatively open into the 60s. What has changed is not the numbers of people on the move, but the borders themselves. They have calcified. Some people don’t like the term “refugee crisis”. I think it is apt in this respect. The term “crisis” has its home in medicine. Fevers were said to reach a crisis point. It was the moment at which they either broke and the patient recovered (think Jane Austen heroine), or the patient died. We know what happens when refugees can’t find homes. The makeshift refugee camps that they find themselves in solidify into permanent settlements with their own economy. The inhabitants can only be kept from fulfilling their desire to be somewhere else by building military fortifications and unleashing frightening violence on them. We are at the turning point, the critical moment, either we remember the true horror of Arendt’s insight and allow refugees a route in, or we watch the makeshift refugee camps, which already the air of permanence, slowly morph over the next 60 years into the Gaza Strip, complete with miles of concrete wall, checkpoints, watchtowers and drone strikes. Thousand 4 1000 is part of a growing movement to avert that disaster. Your £1/month is a tiny bit of penicillin, but all across Europe people are standing up, resisting, donating organising and helping out. That’s a big dose. I’m an optimist, if we don’t stop struggling, the fever will break, the patient will recover and go on to marry Mr Darcy.

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