This person has kindly let us tell his story, to inspire other Refugees and Asylum Seekers who want to learn and improve their education, and as part of the positive and important stories being told during Refugee Week.
It’s a little bit different to home here. I left there one and a half years ago and I had to leave my wife and children back home, they are not here yet. When I left it was a big decision and things were very bad. Initially I went across neighbouring countries then travelled on to neighbouring countries through into Europe before arriving in the UK. The Home Office assigned me to Cardiff when I was in the removal centre for two or three days in Haslar Immigration Removal Centre. I could have gone anywhere in the UK, but I came to Cardiff and I feel very lucky.
At home I studied science and I worked in this field for ten years. I studied in the English language, rather than in Tigrinya which is my first language, and people say I have good English language skills and good handwriting. I would like to do more but I do not always have the time. Two weeks ago I started work as a lab analyst. This is very similar to work I did back home.
At first I didn’t know anything about the UK or Wales in particular. I asked some of the staff in the Removal Centre and they told me they speak another language there: Welsh! I thought oh no, not another language. But when I came here I discovered everybody speaks English as well so it’s ok. I try to speak a little Welsh too, so I can say Croeso.
I came here with four other people who were taken to Haslar. One was assigned to another city but the other two are studying ESOL. When I first arrived here because I could already speak English so I was able to communicate well. I stayed for two months in a large shared accommodation, before moving into a shared flat in the Heath (an area of Cardiff) with three others. Once I got my Refugee status and was permitted to work, I was told to leave because the flat belongs to the Home Office. I have now moved to another area where there is a big student population.
I get support from other organisations. For example, at the Trinity Refugee Centre I got a great deal of information and met other people, plus I did lots of courses with them at first to keep myself busy. Here I became a member an asylum seekers and refugee seekers forum part and I was able to find out about courses we could take.
When I was an asylum seeker I was not allowed to work. The only choice you have is to stay in the house and do nothing or choose to learn – so I choose to do as many courses as I can. You don’t notice the time as much then, plus you can gain a lot of knowledge and the certificates to prove it. It broadened my knowledge and my horizons by studying lots of things outside my specific area, for example doing business courses. You also meet lots of new people so it’s really good.
Even as an asylum seeker I believe there is nothing that hinders you to learn, because all the courses I do are free. When I was part of the forum, lunch was free and they provide transport if you need it. The fact that the courses that I do are free (through Cardiff Met Widening Access) is very useful.
My plan is study further in a master’s degree, but I might need to take further courses before I can do this. People tell me I am a hard worker and motivated to succeed and that this is shown by where I work where I want to continue and put more money in my pocket. Master’s students don’t get grants to cover your fees. So I need to work hard and save enough to study for fees.
If I am granted indefinite leave to remain then this can take up to five years, at this point I want to bring my family over – four more years to go. My family are very proud of me and very happy because I didn’t waste any time. I am good example to my friends and I have been motivating them. For example I personally persuaded four of my friends to do the same business course as me. At first, they did not think they would be eligible so they did not apply, because they did not think their English level would be very good. Now they want to do more courses.
I know so many people and friends who are eager to study but they need to do as many courses in English as they can to help them. The positive things I have experienced in my education journey have been that the courses I have done have been free, so they have given me the motivation to apply. Secondly, the accreditation is very important as you can use this course in the university. Finally, the courses I have done have been short, so that that when one finishes, you have achieved so much in such a short time that you want to do even more. You want to keep on studying as you can achieve so much.
* Please note that this story has been anonymised to protect the identity of the learner.