7 min read

Seagull Weekly Briefing 30/01

All the top stories in the city.
A photo of the pier as taken from Marine Parade. The sunset is bright orange, lighting a horizontal stretch of sky.
Source: The Brighton Seagull 

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Monday Briefing.

This week in The Seagull, Roosa Herranen interviewed the founder of Queer Christians, who wasn't surprised when the census revealed Brighton is both the gayest and most ‘Godless’ city. An interesting read, if we do say so ourselves.

Queer and Christian in the Most Godless City in England
Roosa Herranen interviews the founder of Queer Christians on Brighton’s queerness, lack of religion and how they intersect.
This edition of The Brighton Seagull is sponsored by Cybersyn, a friendly digital analytics consultancy based right here in Brighton.

News This Week

Council calls for safeguarding review in response to concerns about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

A safeguarding review has been requested by the Independent Scrutineer of the Brighton & Hove Children’s Safeguarding Partnership, to address council concerns regarding the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children placed in the city by the Home Office.

The Home Office started doing so back in July 2021 and, according to the council, since then more than 1,600 children have moved through one hotel in the city and transferred to local authorities across the country through the National Transfer Scheme.

In a letter to the Minister for Immigration, councillors Phélim Mac Cafferty and  Hannah said:

We have today requested that the Independent Scrutineer of the Brighton & Hove Children’s Safeguarding Partnership conducts a review into the multi-agency response to safeguarding issues in the hotel. We fully expect that the Home Office will make its officials available to be part of this review.

We wish to restate our request made first in July 2021 and discuss how the Home Office will immediately end the unacceptable use of hotel accommodation for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and indeed other refugees, in Brighton & Hove and the rest of the country.

According to Sussex Police, since the Home Office began housing asylum seekers in hotels in Brighton and Hove in July 2021, 137 unaccompanied children have been reported missing. Of these, 60 have been located and 76 remain under investigation. One has been transferred to a neighbouring force.

Have your say on King Alfred Leisure Centre

Picture of the King Alfred Leisure Centre
Source: Paul Gillett

Residents have been invited to have their say on ideas to replace the King Alfred Leisure Centre, over a series of workshops and drop-in sessions.

Options include acquiring a private site in the western part of the city, using another council-owned site, or using the current site, to build a more modern, energy-efficient building that would also allow for competitions and events to be held at it.

The swimming pools there have been closed until at least Easter because of boiler issues, and due to the age of the 80-year-old building it has increasing running and maintenance costs.

The council also want to hear 'expressions of interest' from landowners, developers and their commercial agents to make sure all options are explored: sites should be in the west of the city, be big enough for a sport and leisure centre with parking, and be accessible by road and public transport.

Bus stops and traffic lanes to change this spring

Source: Brighton and Hove City Council

The delayed third stage of the Valley Gardens scheme is set to start this spring (as we covered here), and The Seagull has more information on how that will look for residents.

All traffic except cycles will be removed from the west side of Old Steine, in front of the Pavilion. This means the three listed (old tram stop) bus stops will no longer be in use. They will instead be replaced by two stops for northbound buses, one omn the corner by the old RBS Bank and one on the east side.

This decision was opposed by groups like Brighton Area Buswatch, who say they believe this will 'result in more congestion and a less attractive environment for bus users'.

Bus stop H on the corner of St James Street will also go with all buses towards North Street stopping on the south west side of Old Steine where buses towards Brighton Station currently stop.

Keep an eye on the signs, and don't get caught by the bus gate down by St Peter's Church!

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • There will be potential bin collection disruption for an unknown amount of time. The council is experiencing a 'vehicle shortage due to national delays in MOT testing'. The official advice is if your collection is missed, leave your bins out and they will catch up as soon as they can. How rubbish!
  • Pure Gym Brighton Central has changed its opening hours to be 6am to 10pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 8pm Saturday to Sunday. They say members are 'more than welcome to use the facilities' at the London Road Pure Gym outside of these hours. They said in a social media post that 'the decision to change the club operating hours was made due to low night time usage of the gym between certain hours'.
  • FAO Norfolk Square residents who use the bike locker: it's been damaged! The locker has been removed and will be replaced 'soon'.
  • 61 days until the Volks returns!!! 🚋🚋🚋
  • NHS strikes continue into February. Royal College of Nursing members employed at South Central Ambulance Service will be striking for fair pay on Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th of February. Solidarity! ✊
Nurses striking outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital
Source: Cath Jurkovic
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

Emergency demo over kidnapped children

Picture of protest signs under the clock tower
Source: The Brighton Seagull

What happened? On Wednesday 25th March, an emergency demo was held at the Clock Tower to protest the treatment of the 139 asylum-seeking children that have gone missing from a Home Office-run hotel in Hove. The event included speakers, chants (such as ‘no justice, no peace’, and ‘when refugee rights are under attack, what do we do? Fight back’), and a minute of silence held “for the children that have gone missing not only from the hotel in Hove but all over the country”.

Who was there? There were speakers from a range of local and national organisations, including Stand Up to Racism, the Socialist Worker Party, Care 4 Calais, Thousand for £1000, Brighton Hove and Districts Trade Council, Afrori Books, and Brighton UCU, as well as a statement from Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion. The event drew a crowd of hundreds, which included children as well as TV crew, many holding battery-operated candles and homemade signs.

What did they say? Speakers condemned the “tragedy” as “horrific”, an “utter disgrace”, “shocking and unforgivable”, a “national scandal”, “the most disturbing and horrific thing that I can remember happening in Brighton and Hove”, and “yet another episode in a litany of maltreatment, abuse, and tragedy faced by asylum seekers and refugees on their way to the UK”.

What do they want? Many of the speakers, such as Stand Up To Racism representative Sasha, called for “a full, public investigation by the government and local authorities into why this has been allowed to happen, and where we are failing these children, as well as “a real plan of action to not only prevent this from happening, but also to find the children who are missing all over the country.”

Others like Aidan, a volunteer from Care 4 Calais, called for this failure to be contextualised within the wider failings of the treatment of asylum seekers, and called for this to be reflected with wider investigations into the conditions that force migrants to flee their homes, and the system they are greeted with when they reach the UK, asking for a “a fit for purpose policy that unconditionally welcomes all refugees and provides safe routes to the UK”.

However, Jacob from Thousand for £1000 claimed that “we don’t need an inquiry” to know what has gone wrong here, saying that it is “love” and “community” that is missing from these children’s lives and leaving them vulnerable - similarly, Caroline from Afrori Books said that the missing children are “our children”, telling us: “Open your home, open your pocket for your children”.

Any good news? There was a feeling of optimism throughout the demo, bolstered by the high turnout despite the rain and the cold. As Sasha said: “ Look around, there are so many people, I can’t even begin to guess how many people are here. No matter what lies our government tries to say, we, the people of the UK, care about the safety and wellbeing of people seeking asylum here. We will not stand by and let the Home Office continue to fail them. We will continue to demand accountability, transparency, and justice for unaccompanied children until they listen to us”, and as Caroline Lucas wrote: “Our city stands united in calling for each and every one of these children to matter.”

How can I get involved? The coalition behind this event will be lobbying Brighton & Hove City Council on Thursday 2nd February at 4pm outside Hove Town Hall.

That's all for this week—please subscribe, and forward to friends who might be interested!