My wife and I landed at Heathrow Airport towards the end of 2020 and applied for asylum. We had to sell everything we owned to be able to afford the flights – all we brought with us was a few clothes. I have to thank the UK Government and all immigration staff, airport staff and officers at every stage. Everyone was friendly.
We have since moved to accommodations in three different locations. I had my interview with the Home Office last year and we are still waiting to hear if we have a permit to stay. Until then we are not allowed to work. Instead we are paid £41 each per week.
We juggle this money every day. Our property is not close to anything. We take English and Maths courses because, although we have passed these subjects in our own country, we need to prove we have reached a British level in order to get a job in the future.
Even though we got vouchers for the buses, the drivers don’t want to take them. They get very upset when we present them, so we get a £5 day pass instead. We try to arrange everything else for the same day so we don’t have to take a bus again for the rest of the week. We try to fit all appointments, GP visits and all of our grocery shopping around the day of our courses.
We visit more than one supermarket to get the best deals and promotions. The prices have really gone up. Spring onions used to cost 37p – now they cost 42p. A month ago eggs were £1.18. Now they cost €1.60. We used to get two small portions of fish for £2.45. Now the same package costs £3. That might not sound like a lot, but if you add 10p or 20p to every item you buy, you end up not being able to afford them anymore.
In my old life I made a good salary – $800 a month. My wife also worked. If we wanted to eat out, we did. In order to eat out now, we would have to save for a very long time. Toiletries, clothes, medicines – we always do the math in our heads. If I need new shoes, I have to save three or four months to buy some at a charity store. We try to wear the same clothes but sometimes they wear out. My pants have holes. I found a deal on Primark for two pairs for £20. That’s a good price – £10 each. But it was still too expensive. I would like new glasses as I am using the same glasses from 6 years ago and they do not work. I need a new prescription but the £95 I would have to pay for the cost makes it impossible.
Last month we found out we were going to be parents. I’m so happy, but there’s the travel expenses for the doctor’s visits, the bigger clothes my wife will need, the folic acid she should be taking to help us have a healthy baby. The GP said ‘don’t worry, just ask at the chemist – it’s not expensive, just £3 or 4.’ A doctor probably doesn’t realize that this can represent two meals for our week.
There were times when we had to use the blackboard, but I don’t try. I have a philosophy that says don’t take from others who may need it more than you do. I work there more than I use and volunteer at the camp. It’s a way of thanking the British people for giving my family a chance.
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If we hadn’t left our country we would be in hiding or we would be dead. If we returned we would experience the same thing. I know the Brits have their own problems, they are under no obligation to help the people who come here. But for us, this country was a safe place, a good place. We are really thankful. At the same time, I wish we could work. We would do the jobs that people don’t want to do. We would pay taxes and help the economy instead of taking £41 a week for free. It’s not fair for asylum seekers and it’s not fair for Britons. There must be a better way.