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.
Many nights my children would go to bed hungry. My wife Tasaria and I gave them whatever food we had, but it was rarely enough. Their clothes were worn through. But with no money, I’m ashamed to say I’d even looked in rubbish bins for clothes other families had thrown out.
This was not the life I had planned for my family. I wanted to come to England to work and provide for them, to give them a better life. In Slovakia it had been impossible. Employers didn’t give jobs to Roma people like me.
When I arrived here, I found an employment agency and took any work they could offer. By the time I’d paid travel, rent and bills, there was nothing left.
Jitka an adviser from Migrant Help, made such a difference to my family. First she arranged a loan so we could buy food, clothes, soap and shampoo. She also helped us apply for benefits, translating information and helping us fill in forms. Without her support and patience, it would have been impossible.
After arranging for my older children to go to school, Jitka even came to meetings with the teacher, to translate and support us. Things were desperate before we met Jitka. She has given us the help we need to move forward.
I look every day for a better-paid job and hope things will improve further for my family very soon.