When I first arrived at the accommodation centre in Croydon, I knew immediately that I was safe. I’d believed I’d never feel that way again.
In Eritrea, where I’m from, everyone is forced to do national service. I was sent away from my family to the military training centre at Sawa. For many young women like me, as well as military training, this means enduring sexual harassment and rape from army superiors.
After a year, I managed to escape to my grandmother’s house, and then to my uncle’s in Sudan. But I knew the army would find me there. I desperately didn’t want to leave. But I had no choice. I was so scared about what they would do to me and my family. I paid a man to bring me to England. He left me outside the Home Office in Croydon. I was so alone and missed my family terribly. I was terrified that they would send me back to Eritrea or to prison, but they sent me to Migrant Help.
I met a woman at the accommodation centre from Ethiopia who spoke my language and started to make friends. The staff there were kind and understanding. They explained what was happening and gave me advice. The help I’ve received has made me feel almost as if I am still at home with my family.
Should my asylum claim be approved, I would like to study and work as a computer engineer.
Maybe one day when it is safe, I can return home – that is my dream.
I am an ex-Gurkha and have given many years of service to the British Army. I am a retired man living with my wife and two sons. I am currently looking for work and have been finding it a challenge to cope with the level of paperwork and applications that have come my way.
I was invited to a presentation by our Local Nepalese Community Leader and found out about an advice service for Gurkhas ran by Migrant Help. Since then, I have been accessing the service and the advisers and volunteers have been helping me deal with my difficulties in areas such as housing benefit, Job Seeker's Allowance, Child Benefit & Child Tax Credit. The advisers were so helpful that I have recommended the service to many of my friends and relatives who struggle with the similar issues due to lack of education and poor English.
As most of the documents are in a different language, it takes us longer to understand things. Trying to learn and deal with new ways of doing things in such a short time span after arriving is impossible. The service being offered by Migrant Help is so very important, especially to people like me with limited knowledge and education.
I’d been desperate for work. When I was finally offered a job as a driver in Rosiori de Vede, I felt so happy. I quickly realised things were not as I’d expected. My employers, a couple in their 40s, wanted me to steal and be violent to people who owed them money. When I refused, I was beaten. I had my kneecaps smashed and my ribs broken. One time, they slashed me with a knife. Another time, the couple’s sons raped me.
That winter, with no idea where we were going, I drove for six days. We ended up in London. More than 25 people – my captors’ friends and family – lived at the house we arrived at. I slept on the floor of a wooden shed in the garden.
The hardest thing was seeing what was happening to Elena. She was just six years old. The couple had tricked her mother into letting her live with them, promising to look after her. But she had become their slave. They beat her violently and made her work up to 20 hours a day. Elena gave me the strength I needed to escape. I had to get her out of there.
One night, when everyone was sleeping, I found where they had hidden my passport and went to the police station. They went back for Elena and I was introduced to Migrant Help. Our lives finally changed.
Two years ago I had nothing. No food and nowhere to live. I’d managed to shower maybe twice a year. Now, thanks to Migrant Help, I have safe accommodation, new clothes and they have helped me see doctors for my health problems. Most of all, they have listened to me. I’m so thankful for everything they’ve done. They’re like a family to me now.