Welcome to Refugee week, everyone. It was a wonderful experience to be a ‘Refugee Week Leader’ last year for the UK and doing all sorts of things during #Covid-19. Made some new connections, Been to seminars, giving public speeches, and doing so many things. Today’s blog is especially to create a link between the reality of an asylum seeker and being a community advocate while wanting to celebrate or even take any preparation for the ” Refugee Week” this year.
Story 1- Trauma CARD ( New ASPEAN CARD)- May 12th, 2021. Got a notification from social media that a new card will be introduced and we will get it by the end of that week. I had to plan for my LAW exams, child visit that week, and suddenly that news as extra pressure on my mind. The law exam was closed book and I was very stressed that week especially thinking about how will I be able to manage the visit to my child if I do not get the money in the following week. An uncertain pain was pressurizing me thinking what if they did not send it by the end of the week? I was right until Friday the 17th of MAY it had not arrived. I did email the designated Home office ASPEAN authorities on the 17th of May but there was no response from them. Maybe they do not even bother. A week without money is very hard for the people like me. Food, cooking, daily cost, my son, university, internet, mobile and so much pressure ( debt in a back home which was been extorted by my ex traffickers) and so on. A week passed without money and still have not got any response or even the new CARD.
On the 25th of May after waiting an hour and a half managed to get a grip of Migrant help. I wish I could rename it “MIGRANT UNHELP”. No help at all just been told we will raise this with the home office. The waiting started again. I do represent myself as a community advocate and I try to help people with my Little help food bank project still now. But this time it was very sudden and I felt reluctant to ask for any help during this time. So started to spend my saving which I used to save £5 a month for my son. Day 14 of a waiting game. received a New Aspean CARD. Was very happy after all these difficulties that I have got it. ALAS! the card is not working. Went to the cash booth 3 times. ‘ The issuer has not authorized this card for you” . What can you do? Started calling Migrant help. After 3 calls and spending nearly 3 hours ( Remember my mobile bills right? how much home office pay after £39/week)?). I was been able to sort this problem out. Got some money at last and yes I had to lend some money from one of my Syrian Refugee friend who is also in uni to survive. So even I have got money I had to end up with very little to survive that week. This is why I have named it a Trauma CARD.
Story 2- ” Rohan” a new Afghani asylum seeker ( i know him personally and this is not his real name) was really struggling. He called me in MAY and asked “help me ” ” No money”. This is the extended level he can tell me by phone as he has not got any credit on his mobile ( Again remember how much the home office pays for the mobile cost?). I went to see him in the hostel.
We sat in the kitchen and he was cooking something and nearly finished. He was insisting me sharing some food with me ( even in this situation). I said I am ok and I told him I am full just blowing my belly bit up to demonstrate I am full. But I just told him can I see what have you coked my friend? He showed me. The only things I could see were the bones of the chicken, neck of the chicken. I joked and asked him ” did your chicken ran away”? He smiled and sat down and told me because he had only £5 left we bought £1 skeleton of a chicken( 2 of them) from the shop to cook as there was no choice ( see pic below). I did not say anything at that point and I ensured him that his help will come soon, so do not worry Rohan. I came home all the way crying and asking my creator ” please give me that power that I can help to take food for those people”. I called my Syrian friend and ask him I need emergency money. I never asked him for money in my 3 years of friendship with him. He did not ask me a single word and just came with some cash to my house. I told him to come with me, we need to go emergency shopping. We went to the local shop. Bought some emergency food like eggs, flour, beans, one chicken, lentils, and rice. I took it straight away to Rohan. He asked me Md you came really quick with food help? I said someone just sends them for me. But I have enough, you keep it, my friend. He smiled and told me in a watery-eyes “thank you and please say thanks to that person who helped us.”
Reality Check- Refugee week is widely celebrated across the country. I still remember my last year Refugee week speech in the ” Amnesty International, UK while launching the ” Refugee Week”- Listen to it if you have time.
The trend in the refugee week is to celebrate success, sharing the stories of empowerment, Celebrating the refugee art and cultures and so many things. But the in reality I could not find ” the fact check of the unlimited trauma we faced are been spotlighted in the refugee week”. My blog is not to point my finger at all the lovely and beautiful work we do in the refugee week. Some of us may Question me ” Md why are you bringing this in the refugee week” What is your intention? Does it have to be at the celebration time? Come on!.. and so many things. My answer to them is – ” the uncertain life we live on as an asylum seeker, we can not celebrate the occasion properly unless there is some basic assurance of our life we have. We are human beings too. Uncertainty is like a curse to us. Every day we are fighting for it. Want an example? for example, take Covid. We all were in uncertainty during covid and we could not even think about any celebration unless the situation was a bit ok until now. I am very optimistic and I live on a dream on that day that no one in the UK will sleep without food, None of my asylum seekers brothers and sister will be suffering like this. But yes we all have to recognize the contribution we do to the community and reflect on them to inspire others as well. I strongly agree with it.
But I just want to submit today while writing this blog at 2 am at night- I wish as an advocate, as a law student, and as an asylum seeker- ” Can we Reflect on the other side of stories and also celebrate them in the refugee week”?
“Can you reflect on these traumas we follow consistently as well in the Refugee week?” ” Can we not bring some changes on these traumas through ” Refugee Week celebrational reflections every year”?
HAPPY REFUGEE WEEK EVERYONE. ” Be there for People, Be there for your community, Something good will happen in return ( My beloved mom). ❤️🙏🏽🙏🏽😊😍✊🏾 #Refugee Wellcome Here.
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****Some additional information for the new blog reader- ASPEAN CARD- is the card provided to the asylum seekers in the UK with £39/weekLY allowances. This covers the cost of a whole week of food and other necessary costs for an asylum seeker in the UK). THIS IS NOT REALLY ENOUGH AT ALL.