The Santé Project campaigns and lobbies for the legal rights of all refugees in the UK, but it never forgets the very real stories of the indignities and discrimination suffered by individuals and families. Here are some of the accounts we learn from them.
Isaac had to run away from home because his father beat him when drunk and was increasingly violent. At home he had to hide his religion because his father and the other villagers disapproved and so he ran to the city and slept rough, sometimes working in the vineyards and being paid in wine. When fighting broke out in his area he was vulnerable, having no family and decided to escape to UK.
Isaac was lucky. He found a sponsor who took him into his home and gives him a small weekly allowance. However Social Services ruled he was not underage and we had no way of fighting this claim before he turned 18. The sponsor got in touch with us and we enabled Isaac to access healthcare and college placement which suited his vocation: to help others. He now volunteers with Mind and performs Talking Drums for our cultural events, which he loves. He hopes to help in our Drum workshops to be set up by Lord Eric, local musician.
Bienvenu was a member of a Political Party in the Congo and was imprisoned and tortured by the militia for his opposition views. He escaped and was taken to hospital after a beating in which his injuries put him into a coma for 6 months.
After this he was discharged from hospital and put on a plane to the UK for safety. He claimed asylum but was refused immediately. He was never offered any government support except by his countrymen and churchgoers in London where he served as a Pastor. He volunteered as a Pastor here for a year or so but was ill from having no home and depending on food provided by congregants in much the same position as himself. Meanwhile his injuries had never been properly treated and his self-esteem was at rock-bottom.
He found Santé and was taken to the local Mental Health Service for a Community Needs Assessment. It wasn’t easy to achieve as the NHS restricts these but with persistence and advocacy we were able to convince the authorities of his case being deserving. Now he is in treatment for five different health needs. He also has a Befriender, Nick, who has stuck with him for over a year, throughout the ups and downs of Court Hearings, disappointments, evidence finding and charity seeking.
Nick was there for him when Bienvenu’s father died and supported him through his grief at being unable to be with him. Counselling has helped and contact with a supportive agency such as ours has made it possible for Bienvenu to overcome his loss of wife and family and begin to make plans for the future. St Mungo’s gardening project, where he volunteers, have offered him a job and as soon as he gains his Leave to Remain he will be able to take up this offer. Without weekly visits to meet his Befriender he would not have made it through his suicidal periods. He now performs for us at Cultural Events as he has the most beautiful singing voice.
Farah is the mother of a 22 year old daughter and a 17 year old son. Her husband is trapped in Iran where he was imprisoned unjustly on a charge of opposing the government.
When the family came to the UK it was on a business trip which proved disastrous. During their trip they allowed sons of friends to stay in their house and it is alleged these boys printed political fliers and Farah’s family were accused of also being political dissidents. Nothing they had ever done could remotely be called dissident or political but they have been sentenced in their absence to 70 lashes and imprisonment probably for life. Farah is distraught and hardly able to sleep or eat.
Her children miss their Dad and Farah is terrified of news getting out which will endanger her husband’s life. So contact is by restricted telephone only and letters must be very carefully worded as they are all likely to be read by government officials. Meanwhile her daughter has won a place in St Martin’s College of Art and has had several exhibitions which have been warmly received. The son has succeeded in gaining 8 A’s at GCSE.
The Santé Project enabled Farah to receive a Community Care Assessment which established her need for support and PTSD counselling. We suggested she volunteer as a nursery nurse and she has taken this initiative to get herself out of the depression she was in, following the arrest of her husband and consequent separation from him.
The family have a dedicated Volunteer who was once the sons’ teacher. She has retired in order to see their case to fruition! We have had several support meetings to campaign for the family and provided social care information and expertise. Judgements so far have been negative, but with 3,000 signatures so far on their Home Office petition, we have every certainty that eventually Leave to Remain will be granted for this talented, charming family, who want nothing better than to be left alone to get on with their lives and campaign for the release of their father/husband from Iranian oppression.