My name is Ina, originally from Albania, and now seeking asylum in the UK. I am a young woman in my twenties and hold a higher degree in political science and have many language qualifications.
I never thought my future would end up like this, but now I know that we cannot always control our lives neither do we know where we might end up. Three years have passed, and I am still waiting for an answer. Daily, I endure the pain of the intolerable waiting. But what can I do? The unjust asylum system has ‘robbed’ me of my dignity and humanity. That means I have been forced to put my life and dreams on hold, just like many other people seeking sanctuary who are in this indistinguishable situation.
It is a catalogue of misfortunes for me. Growing up was not easy for me either. I have horrible memories from my childhood, memories of abuse and discrimination because of my disability. Memories of people not accepting me and not being able to have a social life as I was locked away when we had visitors at home as if I was a monster and would spend days without food or clothes. People called me a “mistake from Allah” and would bully me to do things I did not want. I felt ashamed by others and others were ashamed of me.
My disability was also one of the reasons I fell victim of trafficking. And now here am I, living on £36 per week. I have hospital appointments for my physiotherapy, and because of my clutches I use taxis for my hospital appointments. The hospital does not refund my travel costs. I need physiotherapy and I know it is cheaper for me to go to a local gym than go by taxi to the hospital for it, but I must pay £20 a month for that. It will be the same for others with disabilities, making it hard to use buses.
I live in a flat where I have no choice to choose where I live, and it is on the second floor, with lots of stairs, which is not only difficult because of my disability, but after my operation I was trapped there for six weeks not able to use the stairs at all.
Being a woman asylum seeker means that I also have additional personal needs which again cost more money. You will know about how this affect us all women of my age, but because we have less money, it means that we are affected worse.
It is always a jigsaw in my mind whether to spend the little money I have on food or personal hygiene stuff. Some weekends we might end up without any money, which meant we can’t eat. It is hard and degrading not to be able to buy the minimum things we want.
I am not the only one who is in this situation. I know others in worse situations. Refused asylum seekers who don’t have the basic needs such as shelter, food and clothes. They only survive, thanks to charity organisations and individuals who support them.
The culture of disbelief within Home Office result in many sanctuary seekers having their claims refused.
Imagine having to run from your home, or find a way out of your country, without knowing where you are going. In my case I’m a victim of trafficking. People claiming asylum often escape war zones and extreme poverty. Or the fear for their lives because of their religious or political beliefs. Or they need to escape the persecution and violence for reasons of gender, sexuality, disability, language or ethnicity.
Once here, UK law puts the whole burden of proof on the applicant. But people are rarely able to bring evidence with them. As a result, over half asylum claims are refused. People describe the experience of not being believed as ‘mental torture’.
But what happens to those people who are refused? Some of them have disabilities, some have children, or perhaps they are young women like myself, who cannot return to their country as their life will be in danger. Unfortunately, the refused asylum seeker remains in a living limbo- in a country with a two-tier system of human rights.
This situation makes me feel more depressed because I feel like I’ve lost it all, no belonging, no friends, no rights, and no personal space- having to share a room with other people who are from a different country and different culture, which at times can create problems. For instance, I suffered abuse from a room-mate because of my disability, it was so serious that the police had to be called in.
My story is a glimpse of the hardships experienced by refused asylum seekers, some of who have a disability, are homeless and waiting, hoping that their lives will be better in this country. All I am asking is to give us a chance to live a normal life- Dignity Not Destitution. We are not criminals, we are not here for benefits, yes, we have disabilities and may need support, but this doesn’t mean we will stay in benefits forever. We have ambitions and qualifications, we have dreams and hopes for the future and we want to contribute to this society that has become our adopted home.