‘It has brought my dignity back’: John’s story

People seeking asylum in the UK are only able to apply for the right to work after they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for over a year. Even then, the few people who are granted permission to do so are rarely able to work in practice because their employment is restricted to the narrow list of highly specialised, skilled professions included on the government’s Shortage Occupation List.

So it is fair to say that the majority of our clients are not permitted to work to support themselves, even though it is well known that finding work plays a huge part in helping migrants and asylum seekers to rebuild their lives, enabling them to participate in their local communities while contributing to the UK economy. 

It is our experience that not being allowed to work is deeply damaging. In addition to contributing to isolation, the longer people are unable to use their skills, the more they are likely to become dependent. Our clients want to give back to the country that has helped them! 

A number of our clients have become volunteers for the charity, including John who has recently been permitted to work following his successful application for ‘right to remain’. 

Here is his story

Asylum seekers and migrants are an important part of the fabric of this society and seek to contribute to the economy. No one I know came here with the thought of begging for bread.

Most of the migrants I know have been forced into this predicament by government policies which make it difficult to find work. In my case, I was forced out of work which meant we could not afford the basics. This led us to seek help from charities for food. 

My life was turned upside down! This situation impacted on my self-esteem. A sense of hopelessness crept in. I was not able to provide for the family and having to spend all day in the house, not due to sickness, is demoralising to say the least. 

Eventually, after four years in this predicament, I was granted the right to work with great support from WTRRP. The charity has been an anchor through the challenges we faced as a family. Last year I managed to find a casual job during Christmas time. I was thrilled to be able to tell my children that I was going to work. 

“Most of the migrants I know have been forced into this predicament by government policies which make it difficult to find work.”

This brought a great sense of pride and joy in my life. Finally I was able to contribute in the daily supply for the family. Although it was a short-lived experience it made me feel that I was not worthless. 

When the Christmas opportunity was coming to an end, I discussed this with Dorothy (WTRRP Secretary). After some time she got in touch with me and said that there was an opportunity in a family-run business. I was sceptical at first, but when I met the business owners (Mr and Mrs Mustan and their son Naeem), I was taken in by their warmth and love.

Their business, Egroup Ltd, deals with pharmaceuticals and toiletries wholesale around the world. The premises are fantastic and the job I do is satisfying. The Mustan family have been extremely supportive and accommodating. They continue training me in different aspects of the business so that I can be more involved. 

I love going to work as this gives me a sense of purpose. It has brought my dignity back. I am able to contribute to the economy of this country.