With a sense of relief we’re saying goodbye to 2016, a year in which the politics of hate, fear and bigotry has seemed to dominate. You don’t need reminding about the things that have made this seem like one of the Worst Years Ever, but, bad as those things have been, it’s worth remembering that things are always a little more complex. 2016 was also characterised by energy and action against the border. Who knows, it may yet come to be seen as the beginnings of a change in attitudes to migration? As we get ready to move on, join us in raising a cheer to the migrant support networks in Brighton & Hove. Onwards and upwards!
Back in the long summer days BMS supported the efforts led by Brighton Antifascists to turn up and tell far-right splinter groups like the South Coast Resistance that they aren’t welcome in our city. We’ve also marched with the Hummingbird and others to really make Brighton a City of Sanctuary. People power made a difference and the council promised to find homes for unaccompanied children brought here under the “Dubs Amendment”. Now we need to find foster families and put pressure on the government to make good on their pledge to give refuge to children stuck in limbo on continental Europe.
Refugee Tales 2016, organised by the incredible Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, led dozens of people on an imaginative walk in others’ shoes back in July. The book is available here. Sanctuary on Sea put on the excellent Crossing Borders Festival in June. Refugee Radio and Euro-Mernet launched “Takeaway Heritage”, a wonderful exploration of immigration and the catering trade in Brighton and Hove. You can buy the book here. These projects are great examples of the power of art to break down the barriers imposed on us by the border. Let’s amplify those voices this year.
The Thousand4£1000 housing project for destitute migrants has been hard at work all year signing up supporters and raising funds to provide stable housing for those made homeless by the border regime. In August we held a wonderful, heartwarming fundraiser at new community asset the Rose Hill Tavern. You can read local journalist Amy Hall’s piece about it in the New Internationalist. Over the summer we also secured the house which has provided a home for several people over the last six months (but whose lease is about to expire – please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any leads on a property to rent or available spare rooms).
Keeping in the party vibe, BMS joined up with Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and others in the Pride parade to march behind the Love Refugees banner. Keep an ear out as plans develop for a Migrant Pride event in 2017…
On October 4th BMS was one of many local groups present at Left Unity’s event discussing ‘Migration, Ethnicity & the aftermath of the referendum’ at Friends Meeting House. A couple of weeks later Migrant and Refugee Solidarity (MARS) at Brighton University organised a packed event around ‘the refugee crisis’. This was a great opportunity for recruiting new supporters to local groups, and hopefully will become an annual event. Also in October, BMS and Solfed joined Aziz Choudry in conversation at the Cowley Club, launching his books ‘Just Work? Migrant Workers Struggles Today’ (Pluto Press) and ‘Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers In Canada’ (PM Press).
Movement for Justice have been doing incredible work raising awareness about detention in the UK, and organising demonstrations calling for the closure of Yarls Wood. The most recent of these – in early December – saw around 2,000 people gather in protest.
We also took part in the international day of action against immigration detention. We organised the South Coast contingent at Gatwick to demand the closure of Tinsley House and Brook House. There will be more pressure to shut them down in the next 12 months.
We’ve raised money for our destitution solidarity fund through swap shops, jumble sales, Sunday Roasts, George Harrison tribute nights and brass bands. Doctors of the World continue to advocate for everybody’s access to healthcare. Voices in Exile remain literally life-saving for so many people caught up in the legal nightmare of immigration limbo. Refugee Radio are still keeping people resilient and amplifying the voices that more mainstream sources try to drown out in a chorus of hate. The Migrant English Project is a wonderful community as well as a place to learn English. So, for sure big politics in 2016 has been big on hatred and misery, but, in the margins, a different politics is being imagined. Let’s hope this year brings it into being.
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