Tuesday, 20 October 2015

THAT VERY DAY

You flee your home country,
so as to seek sanctuary,
then you reach the host country.
you are either detained or dispersed,
lucky you if dispersed,
very unlucky if detained.
If you are the one who is dispersed,
you live in accommodation that is shared,
expected to integrate,
with people of your type,
from different walks of life,
background, language, culture,
religion and even common sense.
You may worry or the reverse,
about the cleanliness of the kitchen,
the bathroom and the toilet,
which you are meant to share.
Confused how to locate
the one stop shop that is nearest,
the office where you should report.
You are neither the boss nor the servant,
accept what life has brought.
And await for what tomorrow holds.
If you are the one who is detained,
you are by now who has despaired,
Still suffering from the trauma you faced.
Confused about the present,
And unsure of the future.
Forced to live in contemplation,
as you have to see life’s other version.
Believe that it is your destiny,
that takes you from country to country.
But have the faith and the strength,
as you await for better days.
Never despair, pursue the fight,
you need to be an optimist,
who has patience to see that day,
when you could speak loudly.


Written in April 2006

Monday, 19 October 2015

WE CAN WIN IF WE ARE ORGANISED!

On 13 October around 900 people organised by Citizens UK​ braved the cold weather and gathered at Old Palace Yard to ask David Cameron to resettle 1000 Syrian refugees before Christmas. All those gathered made it clear that the people are ready to welcome refugees. It now looks the government is ready too!

Today David Cameron announced that 1000 Syrian refugees will be resettled before Christmas. The announcement is indeed a big win for civil society and an encouragement to work harder. Of course we will have to wait and see whilst continuing our organised effort to welcome refugees

We still have lots to do to make sure the words are put in practice and that civil society has roles in the resettlement and consequently integration of those who are resettled.  

What makes organising distinct is the fact that we don't only campaign for the sake of campaigning. Rather we want to win and consequently put in place proper strategy to win the win. We thus come up with alternative solutions and campaign in a consistent way. This reminds me one of the maxims of community Organising in Saul Alinsky’s book Rules For Radicals, “Keep the pressure on. Never let up”

When Organised People Speak, The Government will be made to listen. 


Friday, 16 October 2015

WE THE PEOPLE ARE READY TO WELCOME REFUGEES


On Tuesday 13 October around 900 people gathered at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London for a vigil and to ask David Cameron's government to resettle 1000 Syrian refugees before Christmas. This vigil was organised by Citizens UKwhich is the home of community organising in the United Kingdom and the largest civic alliance in Europe. 

In the run up to the 2015 general election, community leaders organised by Citizens UK  approached prospective parliamentary candidates to seek support so that more Syrian refugees would be resettled in the United Kingdom. Further more, community leaders approached councils up and down the country to convince them to take at least 50 refugees in every council. 

In the past few months thousands of British people have shown their readiness and willingness to welcome refugees. They have offered their rooms, time, skills, friendship and money. Yet the response from the government has been too slow. As the Syrian crisis got from bad to worse and the public challenged the government, the British government announced that it would to take in 20000 Syrian refugees over the course of 5 years. 

Following the announcement, Citizens UK have been working all over the country to organise the civil society and secure pledges from more local councils and landlords, that they will house refugees once they arrive here in the UK. The response from the councils and the landlords has been encouraging and it was an indication that when the civil society acts in an organised way, the government and the market could listen. 


The October 13 vigil was attended by senior politicians, religious leaders and members of the public. Among the speakers was Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, who said, " You do not cling to the bottom of a moving truck risking everything if you are looking for an easy life." This is a powerful reminder to the government that people risk everything they have in their search for safety. Hence we cannot turn a blind eye to the crisis and therefore should play our bits as citizens of this world. 

The vigil which was entitled Resettle 1000 Refugees Before Christmas  was the first step to challenge the government to act in the sense of urgency and resettle the most vulnerable 1000 refugees before it is too cold.  


The people are ready to do what it takes to welcome refugees. It is down to the government to do what is right at the right time.



Friday, 13 February 2015

INCOME THRESHOLD HAVING IMPACT ON FAMILY LIFE

THE SPOUSAL VISA CAMPAIGN - JUSTICE FOR FAMILY LIFE!

Community leaders in different constituencies in London, Birmingham, Swansea and Cardiff are calling upon their MPs to support their call to peg the minimum income threshold in order to sponsor the settlement of a spouse or partner in the UK to the national Living Wage. 

The call from Citizens UK, national community organising charity representing over 350 civil society institutions, comes after the Government changed the rules in 2012 and raised the minimum income threshold to £18,600 per annum, placing the dream of a family life out of the reach of thousands of working people; 43% of British employees earn less than £18,600. The higher threshold was set in 2012, and increased dramatically, excluding a much larger number of people from bringing their spouses and children to join them in the UK.

The campaign to change the threshold level and peg it to the national Living Wage came out of thousands of face to face conversations with Citizens UK members from across the country who reported this as an issue affecting their communities.  A report from the APPG on Migration in June 2013 reported that family visas issued dropped by 16% and in some instances children and babies have been separated from a parent both in the UK and abroad.

The Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James’s Church Piccadilly and Citizens UK member institution said: “We want the Government to review what we believe is an unfair and unjust decision that severely limits people from being able to live with their family, something taken for granted by most of us.

“We’ve heard story after story of husbands and wives separated because of this rule. We are asking for a compromise and for the threshold to be linked to the Living Wage. An annual Living Wage salary works out at £15,350 per annum and is recognised as a wage that allows people to support themselves and their family without becoming a burden to the taxpayer.

“Families would still bear the cost of the visa application and family visa recipients have no access to public funds. This isn’t about an open-door immigration policy, but about recognising what a fair figure would be. The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living in the UK.”

The campaigners from Citizens UK differ from some other groups, as they are calling for the threshold to be linked to the Living Wage, rather than the National Minimum Wage, and argue that the Living Wage calculation reflects the real cost of living.

Dilowar Khan, the Director of East London Mosque said: “The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre fully supports this life changing campaign by Citizens UK. Families shouldn’t be separated because of the minimum income threshold set by government.”

“Many of our communities are built on spouses coming from abroad to support their families and children. It is a sad state of affairs to see many testimonies of families being kept separated, because they are unable to meet the income threshold.”

“Tying the threshold to the Living Wage makes perfect sense – and government really needs to take this into account, as it is a realistic figure. Strong communities and families are the backbone of all civilised societies, and we need to ensure citizens are supported to keep their families together.”

According to the Government’s own estimates almost 18,000 British people are prevented from being reunited with their spouse or partner in the UK every year as a result of the updated rules.

Professor Eleonore Kofman, Co-Director of the Social Policy Research Centre and Professor of Gender, Migration and Citizenship, Middlesex University said: "The level of income required is far too high and applied much too inflexibly so that many who have been caught by it are forced to live apart from their partners and their children; even though the family is clearly able to support itself without increasing the use of public funds. In fact, the reverse is the case; keeping the family apart makes reliance on public support more likely."

Campaigners recognise that linking to the Living Wage will still exclude a large section of the population but hope that this would be a step in the right direction and open up debate around the issue.

Nigel John, Senior Chaplin of Swansea University said of the campaign, “Families are meant to live together not apart. I support this campaign” 



Fellow Citizens UK member, Pastor Suzette Ashley, who is pastor of Taste of Glory Apostolic Ministry and also a health care assistant, explains: “My husband and I have been separated because my job as a health care assistant means I don’t earn enough to qualify for a spousal visa.

“I love my job, it is a real vocation, and you certainly don’t do it for the money. I work long hours and you are always being rushed from one job to the next, when all you really want to do is spend quality time with often lonely, vulnerable older people.

“I’m campaigning with Citizens UK because I believe that linking to the Living Wage is a much more sensible calculation. Even the Living Wage amount would be a struggle for me because of the sector I work in, but at least that figure makes sense to me.”

Citizens UK leaders across the country are sending Valentine cards to their local MPs this week and twenty delegations of Citizens UK members will be meeting their MPs armed with cards, flowers and chocolates to highlight the loneliness many separated couples are experiencing this Valentine’s weekend.

Pastor Ashley continues: “Everyone is talking about love and relationships this week which breaks my heart. The most important date I have this Valentine’s is with my MP to ask them to help us negotiate a change and give more people a chance at building a happy family.”


Saturday, 10 January 2015

family is family

Family is family, we all agree,
Rich or poor, it still is family,
Race, colour, religion 
do not matter,
As in the eyes of others,
Family is family,
Why separate them from the loved ones,
From the loves of their souls,
For they don’t earn that much money,
£18600, £22400, £24800 are the numbers
Magic numbers that separate families,
Numbers that block reunions.
Numbers blocking family lives,
Bring down these thresholds
Align them at least to living wage,
To allow more families to live together,
The lives all deserve to have.

The National Training - 10 years ago and 10 years after

About 10 years ago, I was at Citizens UK's National Training as one of the trainees. 10 years after I was back to observe how the trai...