Yesterday evening, I went to a refugee training support programme with a Christian Charity called Restore in Birmingham City Centre. It was the second meeting at this point, but I couldn’t make the first one, so this was my first time there. I arrived quite early and when I walked in I thought, oh no, I’m the only young person here, this is going to be really awkward, but I didn’t let that stop me and I decided to stay. As the meeting began to start, we ended up with a group of about 10-15 people, and a few younger people arrived too, so I didn’t feel so isolated. I began to speak with the group and found out why different people decided to come. I met the team leaders, a woman from south Africa and a Chilean missionary living in the UK, both have worked for Restore over 20 years.
The first hour of the session was about legal terms and advice we would need to know. Just going through the list of things that have to be done to be a legal citizen in this country is so excessive! We were told that first, a claim has to be made by the person in question to the Home Office in Croydon, then their claim has to be decided. It’s done by weighing their reasons for coming and the risks of death, torture, or well-being may have on the individual. It’s not easy. We were shown some case studies and examples of scenarios and they all just blew my mind. One of the ones we were shown was of a young wife, her two children had been killed in the war in Syria and she didn’t know where her husband was. She stayed with her young child and moved to the UK. Because she looks after her young child, she has no time to learn English and is struggling with communication and a stable place to live. This is just one of many stories, its understandable why these people need all the support and legal advice they can get!
Near the end of the legal low down, a woman called Paulette from Cameroon was then asked to share her story. It was so inspiring and emotional, I was nearly in tears as she broke down while she remembered what had happened. She was a political activist in Cameroon and had been captured and tortured there for her strong beliefs and rebellion against the strict system. In a bid to save her life, she posed as a partner with another person and flew to the UK. She made her first case and tried to appeal for initial “Leave To Remain”- this means you are legal in the UK. After some time, her case was denied and she was left with the chance to appeal again with a solicitor. She was then made destitute and things just seemed to get worse after the solicitors dropped her case the next year. After a long 7 years, she was finally given the chance to stay in the UK and rebuild her life. I couldn’t believe it. but that wasn’t the end, she hadn’t seen her mother in 7 years, and they had arranged to meet in Nigeria later that year. Sadly, her mother got sick and died shortly after. She was in tears in front of us and I could feel myself welling up, my heart really went out to her. She said she had support from her church and she prayed to God that she would be okay and after all that time, things are finally looking up for her. She now was arranged permanent accommodations, she’s getting her education on the rise and she’s beginning to grieve her mother.
What a story. shortly after this, the meeting had finished and people stayed behind to chat. I just had to talk to Paulette and encourage her and I did, I told her she was an inspiration and that God was with her and kept her going! She was grateful and thanked me, she was just so humble and gracious. That was my evening, and I loved it, it really made me think and be thankful that God has given us such privileges here in the UK. It also made me aware of the baggage people carry when they come into this country and how it affects their present lives, you wouldn’t believe. The next meeting is coming up soon and I literally cannot wait, ill keep you guys updated!
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