Many migrants come to the UK to escape from conflict or persecution and are looking to find a safe place to build a life, achieve, and be fulfilled. This is a space for us to share some of the ambitions the people we support have, as well as the barriers they face and the impact the Fund can have in trying to help overcome some of these.
"I was evicted from my asylum accommodation. I was homeless for a month – living on the street"
I have been in the UK since 2010, it took five years eight months to be granted as a refugee, I was refused six times before it was finally accepted. During this time I had no recourse to public funds four different times, each time for 2-4 months.
During one of these times in 2016 I was evicted from my asylum accommodation. I was homeless for a month – living on the street, not knowing any friends who could share a place to sleep. I had no money, food or knowledge about support. Fortunately the weather was not so chilly.
I was in desperate need of food, shelter, and credit to talk to my lawyer and charities providing support. I had to walk everywhere to find any update. It gives me goosebumps thinking about that time.
The Fund helped me during the worst time, giving me space to submit a new asylum application. On the sixth time, it was accepted. Now I can work and get housing. I’m giving my time back to the Fund to help others have the same opportunity.
[Name and photo changed to protect identity]
My name is Ruvimbo. I’m an asylum seeker. I’ve been destitute for more than 7 years.
I’m not allowed to work.
I don’t have an income.
I can’t get benefits.
For 7 years I didn’t get any money. How am I supposed to live? Depression. I want to tell you that the Migrant Destitution Fund is helping us. It helps a lot for me. It helps with our mental health.
Before lockdown I was still destitute but I was able to go around meeting people. To be destitute in Corona times is like wearing a shoe inside. I can’t go out. No phone, no communication, no exercise. It is very hard for us. I can’t even meet people. I love people but miss them.
The Migrant Destitution Fund, it is working for me. These people are helping me, I can tell you. It is helping with my mental health. Helping me to buy food, toiletries. I can get cooking oil which was not in the foodbank. I have eczema, and was able to get some over the counter medicine to help with my skin disease. It helps me to get a top-up, to call home. I was able to call my family. It’s my first time to be able to get a phone card to call my family. The first time! It made me cry. It is different from having to ask someone for help. It is different to have money in my pocket. Helps my mental health, how I feel inside.
My depression is caused by the Home Office. That is where my fear and depression come from. Mental health problems are a long-term result of our situation, of being destitute. If I get a decision on my case then I will be finished with my mental health problems. When I’m given a visa, there will be no depression. I can get on with my life.
The Fund has helped me a lot, but can the government help us as asylum seekers get out of this situation? We didn’t come here for benefits. We came here for protection, for safety. If you can understand us and give us a visa, we can help the community. We want to give something back.
I’m hoping to change things for the next generation of asylum seekers. I want them to come here and get protection, and not be trodden down. It is slow change. We come from afar. We are not seen. It’s like we are behind, they are not looking at us.
[Name changed to protect identity]
"We didn’t come here for benefits. We came here for protection, for safety. If you can understand us and give us a visa, we can help the community. We want to give something back"
Amin first applied to the Migrant Destitution Fund during one of the period’s when lockdown restrictions were relaxed. He wanted to use it to give him some freedom and get out of the house where he was staying. It was already overcrowded and he knew his host would welcome a bit of space.
The second time it was to contribute toward some of his hosts costs. Things were getting tense and he didn’t want to end up back on the street.
Sadly, when Amin most recently applied he was sleeping rough. He’d been assaulted at the place he was staying and no longer felt safe there. With no ability to claim public funds and his immigration situation unclear, he didn’t know what else to do.
The support of the partner charity who referred him to the MDF and a bit of cash from the grant in his pocket meant he wasn’t totally on his own. Without being able to regularise his immigration status however, he will remain vulnerable to abuse and a more stable solution very hard to find. Until that can happen, he continues to access support from the Mustard Tree and apply to the Fund when needed.