T4K January Update

I trust that you all had a warm, cosy and relaxing Christmas and New Year (actually, I do not trust that. For a start not all of us are going to celebrate Christmas and New Year can be very stressful. What I really mean is I hope that you are wintering well).

Flat Interior

By Ssc honjyo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I will stop faffing around and get to the point. We are coming to the end of the current tenancy and we need some new options. The communities efforts are somewhere north of £950 a month. This is phenomenal. It put us in a position to rent a two-bedroom flat in Brighton. You have been housing four people. As it stands, we need to find housing options for three of those four people (the fourth is sorted). There is also additional need that T4K has not yet met.

So, here is what is needed: really friendly landlords who want to make some sort of social difference and/or some hosts. Please, take time to share this text with your friends:

*LOOKING FOR HOSTS/SPARE ROOMS. NEEDED URGENTLY*

Brighton Migrant Solidarity is a community organisation run entirely by volunteers. Amongst other activities we seek to provide accommodation for destitute migrants, many of whom have no recourse to public funds (i.e benefits and housing) and are prohibited from working.

We run the Thousand 4 £1000 project as part of these efforts. We are also building up a network of local hosts who have a spare room and would like to offer it to someone in this situation. Right now we are urgently seeking a few spare rooms for four people who need accommodation from 31st January 2017.

The length of a hosting arrangement would depend on your availability – any and all offers are welcomed. Due to immigration legislation we are unable to pay (and you are unable to receive) rent for taking part, but we are able to reimburse any reasonable expenses you would incur by housing someone i.e. extra heating, lighting and food.

Could you help provide some comfort and security, even if only for a little while, to someone in the new year? If you are able to help, or would simply like to find out more (without making any commitment) please contact us via facebook or brimigsol@riseup.net as soon as possible. Thank you

To make things easy, you can share that with this link: share on facebook

One of the big challenges that we face is the new Immigration Act. For me, out of all the bad things that happened in 2016 the most pernicious was the passing into law of that act. The legislation is more or less horrific from start to finish. The very last thing which it does is allow the government to introduce fees for a whole range of bureaucratic services commonly, though not exclusively, used by immigrants. Part of this “tidying up” allows the government to levy additional charges for issuing travel documents to people with unusual statuses. Apart the fact that this is classic rent seeking behaviour, it is a microcosm of the state of mainstream politics in this country (and I think across the globe). The dominant ideology seems to be that the role of the state is to grab and maintain an advantage for a particular in-group. The justification offered for this policy was that by allowing the Home Office to charge extra, even above the level of cost, for “complex applications” it “will alleviate the corresponding burden on the vast majority of passport applications and potentially facilitate further fee reductions”. In other words, by charging Johnny Foreigner a bit more, UK citizens can pay a bit less. A further, unstated, but direct “benefit” of the policy is that it sets the financial barrier to entry just that little bit higher. Anyone who does come here from abroad is going to be that little bit richer. From the Home Office’s perspective the only good foreigner is a rich foreigner.

More directly pernicious is what the Immigration Act has done to housing. It is now a criminal offence for a landlord or their agent to be in a residential tenancy agreement and have somebody living on the premises who does not have the ‘right to rent’ in the UK. You lack the right to rent if you have irregular immigration status. That means that you could end up in jail if your tenant is kind enough to let an asylum seeker live in your house. It’s not all bad news for projects like ours. If you own your own house, you can still have anyone you like as a guest, and, more importantly, if a charity or voluntary organisation (that’s us) manages the tenancy, then the law does not apply. The logic behind this is to create a “really hostile environment for illegal migrants”. That is a quote from Theresa May. It’s important to remember that an “illegal migrant” is a legal fiction. Somebody is here illegally because the government have passed laws determining who is allowed to be in the country. It is also the case that many of the people without the right to rent are people who cannot legally be removed from the country. In general, if you’re making a claim for leave to remain on human rights grounds you cannot be deported because you might well have a right to be here.  By labelling you “an illegal migrant” and denying you access to any form of life in the UK, the government presumes that, until you’ve proved it, you don’t have a right to be here. It is an odd notion of rights. A right is something that flows to you automatically. It’s not something that you should need to prove. I have my rights whether or not you recognise them. That used to be the idea, anyway.

On its own terms, it’s inhumane. People who have every right to be here are frozen out of society. I don’t like those terms. May justified the policy saying “most people will say it can’t be fair for people who have no right to be here in the UK to continue to exist as everybody else does… We are going to be changing that because we don’t think it is fair.” Presumably, you think the policy is fair when you think that taking part of life in the UK is a privilege to which only certain people are admitted. The claim is that it’s fair to keep what you have to yourself. There is no need to share. I guess the justification here is that the goods of this society belong only to certain people. But goods are not things you can own. They are things you have access to. The goods in question here are the goods of society. They are things that exist because of the way our society works. It seems to me that it is only fair that anyone who is inescapably part of this society, who has to suffer the problems of this society, should also have access to the goods of this society on an equal footing with anybody else.

I’m suspicious of May’s claim that most people share her understanding of fairness. What I do know is that many, many dislike at least one of the consequences of this way of thinking. I think that the success of our project and other similar initiatives that seek to make strangers welcome and give them a chance to build a home is heartwarming. It gives me hope that a different kind of politics is possible; a politics that seeks to be inclusive rather than exclusive and that seeks to share both joy and suffering more evenly rather than scrabbling to capture as much as possible for yourself.

Happy New Year to you all.

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