As tough as things have been for all of us over the last months, people seeking asylum are having an especially rough time.
I went through the asylum process myself, and know the pain and the feeling of not having food, money for the bus or my phone bill, and of not having the right to work. I can’t imagine how much harder it must all feel right now.
With or without the pandemic, waiting for your asylum claim to be processed is an incredibly difficult time. I had to wait over two-and-a-half years for the home office to make a decision. During that time I was barred from having a job, unable to earn a living or continue my career.
It’s hard to describe how difficult it was. Not just the lack of money, having to rely on £5.66 a day from the Home Office. It hurt my pride, it made me feel less human.
I so badly wanted to be able to continue building my career. I’d always loved business management, and had so much experience in the field from the 15 years I had been here in the UK before I was forced claim asylum. But the current rules meant I had to put everything on hold for years while my asylum claim was processed, and I was unable to take any job offered to me during this time because of the restrictions imposed.
Now that I’ve finally got refugee status and I’m able to work, I’ve set up my own small fashion brand.
During the lockdown I’ve been making masks and scrubs for the NHS. I’ve also been making masks for a hostel for people seeking asylum – it’s one small way I’ve been able to help. The masks are fun to make, although I have to be careful, I’ve found myself making them until four in the morning!
I’m also involved in the Lift the Ban coalition which is a group of over 200 organisations campaigning to change the rules so people seeking asylum have the right to work in the UK. As part of the campaign I got to go to Parliament last year, to talk to MPs and Peers about my life in Britain. It was there that I saw the power of the campaign. We met MPs and Peers from all political parties. They’re aware of how much support our campaign to give people seeking asylum the right to work has got.
So, let’s keep going! Let’s keep up the pressure because I think we can win. I could see that as I told politicians what had happened to me. They understood why things need to change; and why lifting the ban will be good for people like me, good for business and good for society.
I don’t want any other people seeking asylum to feel dehumanised, or to go through the depressing process that I went through. We need to Lift the Ban.
Stand with me and call on our Government to Lift the Ban.
This post was originally published on Refugee Action.