I grew up with my grandparents in Eritrea. I don’t know anything about my father who was jailed in Ethiopia. My mother moved to the United Kingdom but it took 10 years to grant her residence permit. My journey to join her started in Sudan but did not go well. My appeal was refused twice by the UK embassy, and everything seemed hopeless. My mother was hugely afraid for my safety and went to SDCAS for help. They contacted the UNHCR in Khartoum who confirmed I would face persecution if I returned to Eritrea.
SDCAS helped with my visa application and, in 2015, I finally got my visa. I was warmly welcomed by SDCAS with a big welcoming party – I have never felt so loved! As a new arrival in a new country, SDCAS provided me with education and immigration advice. I am studying for access to higher education in a London college. And with SDCAS support, I got travel documents and a residence permit within 3 months.
M. is a young woman from Cameroon who arrived in this country a few years ago. She was a successful professional and an accomplished athlete in her country until she faced homophobic persecution including rejection by her family who thought she was possessed. She received constant threats and intimidation from the police and at times suffered cruel and inhuman treatment in police custody. As a result, she developed serious health problems physically and mentally. She decided to come to London to seek asylum. continue to need our services until they are able to find work, can be reunited with their families, or acquire the skills and confidence to live independently in this country.
She first came to SDCAS for advice on practical issues and then joined our art group. There she explained how she was suffering extremes of loneliness, despair and uncertainty about her future. The sharing of these fearful memories with us helped her gain strength and she gradually became more confident. M. comes across as an incredibly resilient woman. Always smiling, she has made good friends everywhere she has stayed. Her English is improving rapidly. She is currently in college, studying to become a nurse, working very hard to be able ‘to take care of other people’.
R, his wife and their son arrived in the UK a few years ago and were granted temporary leave to remain in the UK. Seeking to live near friends in Southwark, as the family suffers from both physical and mental health issues, they came to us at SDCAS. When they were refused Council accommodation, the family privately rented all they could afford – one room, with shared facilities – and their life was very pressured. However, with SDCAS’s help, permanent, secure housing was offered 2 years later.
SDCAS signposted R to expert welfare advice when DWP later decided to cancel his Employment Support Allowance. We applied for financial relief from another charity on his behalf and continued to support him through his successful appeal against DWP’s decision. As the end of the family’s remain period came near, we signposted them to advisors who helped them apply for indefinite leave to remain to secure a permanent right to stay in the UK. SDCAS continues to help the family develop their full potential, including providing educational advice for their son and more generally supporting their integration into local society.
As a teenager, A fled civil war in Darfur, Sudan. On arrival in the UK, his age was disputed by the Home Office, he was given a random date of birth and, instead of offering him accommodation while his asylum claim was being considered, he was taken to a detention centre. For many months A was moved from one detention centre to another – 6 in total – without having committed a crime.
After release, he was even more traumatised than on arrival and, for the following 7 years, the battle with the immigration authorities continued. He came very close to giving up on many occasions. However, during those 7 long years of waiting, he studied tiling and carpentry. In 2018, he qualified as a community interpreter. Nearly 8 years of living on £37 per week – a ‘long lockdown’, as he called it – has taken its toll, but he used his time constructively.
For the past 2 years, A has been volunteering at the day centre and we all appreciate his presence and kindness towards others. In the summer of 2020, he was finally granted refugee status. We celebrated COVID-style, at a safe distance but totally delighted. 10 years after fleeing Darfur, A has found a job and is now hoping to move into his own accommodation, leaving the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) system behind for good.