Time to Life the Ban
“I keep referring to myself as a prisoner… There are no bars and I don’t have the uniform to wear every day, but everything else is the same. Even prisoners – they have a passport, they have a place to call home when they get out”
*This post contains distressing content*
Dear the Home Office,
I turned 35 in 2018. I was just a child when I arrived to this country, just 6 months before I turned 16. I had big hopes and dreams about how I was going to go to school and make something of myself. But then my life changed – everything I knew or thought changed. There was one person who I thought was going to be there for me no matter what, but I have never been so wrong in my life. That day I became a prisoner and abused in every way – mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually and by the very people I thought were meant to protect me. When I dared to stand up for myself, I was thrown out and into a world I knew nothing about, only 4 months before I turned 16. I was being abused from every angle and through it all I couldn’t bring myself to tell my Dad when I got the chance to call home.
I am not going to tell you what the past 18 years have been like and if I did I would need to write a book. I have been living as a prisoner in a country that is meant to be great – Great Britain right?
My dad died a few years ago. He was my rock, my everything, the only one on this earth that truly cared and loved me unconditionally. I couldn’t even go to say my goodbye. After that I had a breakdown and got sick, in fact I am still sick but I am getting help from doctors, therapists and some good organisations that have been wonderful to me.
In the last few years I have been able to go back to school and with the help of my case worker I have been taking courses to better myself. I have been seeing therapists to deal with all of the many, many things and many questions that I have in my head. I have been trying to learn how to forgive, how to love myself again, how to trust anything and anyone again, I’ve been learning how to move on from my past.
I wake up every morning and try to find a good reason to be alive but thank God, I have some wonderful people around me now, so waking up to another day, even as prisoner, they make it a bit better.
I keep referring to myself as a prisoner because I feel like one. There are no bars and I don’t have the uniform to wear every day, but everything else is the same. Even prisoners – they have a passport, they have a place to call home when they get out, they can even work when in prison and when they are out too. If I had committed murder I feel like I would have been released by now with good behaviour.
Some people I know have come to this country they have received their papers within a year, a couple of months, some even in weeks. I know every case is different – but this is my life. I only have the one. I feel like my life is fading away day after day, year after year, simply because someone somewhere can’t make up their minds.
I know you have a job to do, but how many years does it take to make a decision on someone’s life? Do you ever think how this affects my life? I know you probably don’t get it or even care, because you have a job, you have a home to go to and a family you get to see every day. You can go on holiday when you want, order things online, have a bank card, have a driving licence.
You probably don’t have a clue what it feels like to have none of these things – or to have your life entirely in someone else’s hands. I am 35 and all I have to live on is £35 a week, do you how much a travel card is? Or a 1 week bus pass? I have to eat, buy clothes and get the other things I need as a woman. I am 35 years old and I don’t have a bank account, I don’t have a place I can call my home, I can’t start a family and I’ve not even seen any members of my family for 18 years. I can’t work even though I have so much to offer.
£35 a week.
35 years old.
The petitioning organisation Change.org came into our chef training group to run workshops with the Migrateful chefs to help them explore what they felt passionate about and what they would petition for to change in the world if they could. Many of the chefs talked about the injustice of not being able to legally work and living on £5.39 a day whilst waiting for the Home Office’s decision on their immigration claim. Above is a letter, which contains some distressing content from one of our chefs who has been waiting 19 years to get her immigration status and unable to work that whole time.
Stopping asylum seekers from working whilst their cases are being considered means they are unable to live a life of dignity, and we’re not just talking for a few months, but for years and years. Our chefs have been waiting on average 10 years or more. This is clearly and absolutely immoral. People who have fled great danger deserve to be able to use their skills to build a fulfilling life and to live in dignity rather than in destitution. There is also a clear economic argument for lifting the ban – asylum seekers working could contribute to the UK economy by £42.4million each year.
Refugee Action have started a petition to demand that the government allow asylum seekers to work. Please sign the petition here.