Welcome to the United Kingdom

Licensed by Adobe Stock – By carlosgardel

When I arrived in the UK in November 2019, I was delighted that finally after 18 months of a hard and dangerous journey, I arrived to my dream land looking for human rights, freedom, justice and freedom of speech.

But this happiness started to disappear day by day after a few weeks. The accommodation provider was moving us from one emergency accommodation to another, treating us like objects. We don’t have a choice.

In December 2019, I arrived at Laverstoke Court asylum seekers’ hostel, Derby.

In the beginning, the charity Migrant Help told me that this is emergency accommodation for six weeks. After that I would be transferred to long term accommodation (shared house).

I lived in the hostel in a shared room with three persons. I had trouble sleeping so I tried to contact the Initial Accomodation (IA) clinic about my medical situation. Every time they answered, “We can’t help you. You should wait to be transferred to the long term accommodation. You will able register with the GP.”

I reported a lot of issues through Migrant Help about the daily basic needs that the accommodation provider should address, but they kept ignoring my reports.

I lived in the IA accommodation for one year. I had witnessed two coronavirus lockdowns. During the lockdowns the hostel management refuse to provide us with face masks and sanitiser. They gave us £35 per week to buy our essential needs and food.

In November the hostel management forced me to isolate myself in my room for one month based on personal issues because I was an activist to defend our rights. I tried to help my friends and the other residents with shopping for some groceries when they were isolated. I followed the management’s orders and isolated my self for one month because I respect the government Covid-19 guidelines. Despite that, I tested negative three times in that month.

Also I received threats from the hostel management that they would report me to the Home Office if I continued reporting the daily basic issues to Migrant Help and the accommodation provider. They took it like a challenge because I stood up, side by side with my colleagues, by organising a peaceful protest to raise our voice to the Home Office.

I had an interview with the Derby Telegraph and I met the MP of Derby, Mrs Solloway. I invited her to visit the hostel to listen to the residents’ problems, and she did.

I organised, with the help of the community centres, an online meeting on zoom with the British Red Cross, Derby Council, charities and Derby police department, to have a chance to raise our concerns. More than ten residents who spoke English well joined the meetings. We worked as a team, we knew our rights and we decided to expose the reality: that the only thing that the accommodation provider cares about is to make profit, ignoring our suffering.

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The only thing that was consoling us, especially at the hardest times, was the community support such as the British Red Cross, charities, Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity group and community centres. They provided us with all types of very kind and generous support.

In December 2020, the accommodation provider transferred me to a shared house with eight other residents. The house was student accommodation in the past. The residents had been living in the house for more than one year and they had been inviting their friends to sleepover and stay all the day at the house, despite the Covid-19 restrictions. I started volunteering with the British Heart Foundation for three weeks before the lockdown in January.

In the middle of January 2021, I had become infected with coronavirus because all the house residents weren’t following the lockdown rules, that household mixing is not allowed. I reported that to the accommodation provider and Migrant Help but they ignored me. The situation was still the same all through the lockdown; more than ten people coming to visit the friends. They kept ignoring the Isolation rules. At one point we had five residents afflicted with coronavirus.

I hope in the future that the Home Office monitors the contract with the accommodation provider and take the feed back from the service users, not from the accommodation provider. Because, in fact, much of the accommodation doesn’t meet the standards.

Meanwhile, I have already been waiting 15 months for my asylum interview.

**  This testimony was facilitated by Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, support refugees and asylum seekers. They are currently in need of second hand mobile phones as well as SIM cards. If you can help, donations can be dropped off at St Anne’s Church in Derby on Thursday mornings 10-12. Please see http://derbyshirerefugeesolidarity.org/get-involved
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