I’m inviting you to come with me on a journey this month! To places you have not seen and people you have not met – all in Croydon! We will discover a little about the lives which Asylum Seekers are living. We will see some of the many forms that Christian love takes and God’s blessings that follow for both the giver and the recipient. This is exciting stuff – here- on our doorstep!
Let’s dive in. Case 1. I am a political asylum seeker who had been arrested and tortured by my government for helping persecuted people. I find myself living in some other reality. Is this truly me? I’m in England now, existing day by day with my torturers’ shouts ringing in my ears, so even sleep doesn’t come. I yearn for my loved ones, but contact will endanger them. I am in a mess. But alive! I have a strong Christian faith and find Croydon Refugee Day Centre. They give me a radio to help me cope with my insomnia and intense loneliness. I work hard in the noisy rush of their kitchen; it’s the only time in my week when I cannot hear my torturers’ voices. Peter helps me get medical help. Then I am suddenly dispersed far from Croydon, to a cramped shared house to live with strangers who can only speak their own languages. I feel so intensely lonely. CRDC pays my fares and I catch three buses, travelling through the early, early morning to an oasis of love and support. Thank God.
Week two of our journey into the world of asylum seekers and refugees in Croydon! See full introduction in last week’s Newslink. CRDC is Croydon Refugee Day Centre.
Let’s dive in! Case 2. I am extremely well qualified in certain medical matters. I hold a PHD and my English is good. I was engaged in research and study at a leading UK university when war broke out in my homeland. I had lost everything. Fast forward to my claiming asylum, living in an asylum hostel in Croydon and over a year later receiving refugee status. Praise God and the British Government.
Astonished and anxious, I found that after Refugee status is granted refugees have only 28 days to leave their asylum accommodation, get an NI number, open a bank account, sign on for Universal Credit, get a job, save for at least one month’s deposit on a room in a shared house and one month’s rent in advance and FIND accommodation. Breathe! Let me tell you that this is impossible and without friends’ floors many new refugees can become homeless. But Covid 19 actually helped me as the Home Office were moving very few people through the hostels and so I was allowed to stay on in my room while I obtained everything apart from a somewhere to live. This is HIGHLY unusual, but it allowed me over 6 months to save some of my UC living allowance so that I had some savings. I also had excellent academic and character references. The latter from friends I had volunteered with at CRDC. I was progressing in my application for a low paid, low-level lab job in a Surrey hospital, which was floundering at the last hurdle but help from CRDC reassured their HR department.
When I got my hostel eviction letter a group of CRDC and other friends helped with combing online house share sites, rushing me to viewings and then putting me up for a short time until I found a small over-priced room. Today I find I need to raise a lot of money for a university course that on completion will allow me to use my real skills which are very much needed in the NHS. This is a long journey and it is easy to become depressed.
Week three of our journey into the world of asylum seekers and refugees in Croydon! See full introduction in first week of June’s Newslink. CRDC is Croydon Refugee Day Centre.
Not everyone given Refugee Status is able to move on in life. Undealt-with traumas, no help negotiating life in the UK, language problems, the wrong skills, being fleeced by bad people and profound sadness due to loss of dear ones are all factors that may push new refugees into homelessness, deep depression and destitution.
A long-term guest has been destitute for many years. Some of the above applied to him. He survived doing odd jobs and mainly slept on night buses and friends’ floors. Then his Biometric Residence Permit was stolen in early 2020 and without it he couldn’t get work or show he was ‘legal’. He reported the theft and tried to apply to the Home Office to get a replacement. That was a real saga. One of our volunteers took the matter in hand and did not give up! Volunteers also got Street Link involved and they in turn, Thameslink. There was a three-month minimum wait for accommodation and he was now visibly struggling, mentally and physically. He was desperate for his BRP and later for accommodation. CRDC kept encouraging him to work with Crisis. Wonderfully they housed him through the worst of winter 2021/2. We were so relieved. Then he was given accommodation at Emmaus which provided him with a safe community, training and help to rebuild his life. We were all ecstatic! He asked if he could still visit us on Tuesdays – CRDC has been a reliable, welcoming and encouraging part of his life for probably over a decade. Our prayers for his safety have been answered. And he received the BRP in May this year!
Week four of our journey into the world of asylum seekers and refugees in Croydon! See full introduction in first week of June’s Newslink. CRDC is Croydon Refugee Day Centre.
Here we go, case 4. I will give you a flavour of just one of a string of difficult early experiences as a refugee. Unlike many fleeing terror, I arrived ‘legally’, with refugee status.
I had temporary accommodation pre-arranged but when it was time to leave with my two under-fives, I didn’t know how to get accommodation. I was told that the local council would give me emergency accommodation but that I would need a letter confirming my eviction and that I should present on the day as homeless, outside Croydon Council. A team from CRDC tried to help us fill in the so called ‘Housing Wizard’ form. All had to be done online and on the phone. We were given conflicting instructions by the Council and were getting nowhere. Someone from CRDC put us up at a local hotel as social services told us we could not be given accommodation. CRDC were desperately trying to help us but confessed that this situation was new to them too, as their knowledgeable manager Peter Hall had recently died in the Covid epidemic. Then they rang Shelter, the housing charity. By that afternoon we had been given very temporary accommodation in a small flat, away from Croydon. On arrival we found a locked bedroom and were told by the rental agent that a man might still be living in it. I was so scared that I got someone to stay the night in the corridor. CRDC paid for the taxi and then returned with bedding, a hot meal and other supplies and again with my ‘guard’. CRDC’s help was crucial in those first few weeks. Sadly, they can’t help me with my current accommodation that is overrun with mice. However, I am so grateful that we can live in peace away from guns and bombs.