The Museum of Homelessness used items from its collection to create a "streetmuseum" outside the Home Office this week in protest at the inhumane treatment of migrants.
Joined by campaigners, including the Streets Kitchen charity and ex-homeless veteran and artist David Tovey, the museum created a display over the bank holiday weekend to draw attention to the "increasingly widespread danger for migrants" in the UK.
The protest follows several disturbing incidents in the migrant community in recent months, including the targeting of Covid-19 homeless hotels by fascist groups, who post videos online of themselves "hunting migrants", and the death by starvation of Ugandan asylum seeker Mercy Baguma in Glasgow last month.
The museum said in a statement: "We set up our museum display to send a message that damaging 'no recourse' rules and the punitive hostile environment policies are fanning the flames of racism and fascism."
The campaigners are demanding that the government take action to prevent further tragedies. They are calling for the abolition of the No Recourse to Public Funds rules, which they say caused Baguma's death and ongoing hunger and destitution for thousands of other migrants. They also called on the Crown Prosecution Service to bring criminal charges against people who target homeless hotels to harass and intimidate vulnerable individuals.
The museum’s collection is donated by people who are homeless, both British nationals and newer arrivals to the UK. The items displayed in the protest ranged from a packet of tobacco to a baby’s bottle.
The "streetmuseum" is intended to challenge viewers to see the humanity in everyone. Tovey said: "This installation is a message from an ex-homeless veteran that hate will not be tolerated. I am disgusted by the actions of the far right abusing and intimidating homeless residents staying in Covid hotels."
Streets Kitchen co-ordinator Elodie Berland said: “We are devastated to hear of the death of Mercy Baguma and to have to witness the disgraceful ongoing hostility towards homeless migrants. At Streets Kitchen we see the inhumane impact of the No Recourse to Public Funds rules on a daily basis with hundreds of people too poor to buy food and basic supplies, and these numbers keep growing.
"This installation is a message to the government that they must abolish the punitive No Recourse to Public Funds rules so that everyone has the ability to work, feed themselves and their families and have a roof over their heads.”
Heres a little film we made of the action.— Museum of Homelessness (@our_MoH) August 31, 2020
We would appreciate shares. THANKS peeps, let's stop nazis. Let's stop people starving.
Let's stop destitution.
Let's stop all this hate. #abolishNRPF
The Museum of Homelessness was founded in 2015 as a community-driven social justice museum, created and run by people with direct experience of homelessness. It tackles homelessness and housing inequality by amplifying the voices of its community through research, campaigns and exhibitions.
The museum also provides direct support such as bursaries, mentoring, training and practical assistance to its community members. It is currently seeking a permanent building to house its collection.