Well the asylum seeker story I wrote about earlier this week unfolded in quite an unexpected way today. Hamed, you may recall, has been living in limbo in Greater Manchester for five years now, ever since he turned up in a container ship at Liverpool docks, alone and terrified and unable to speak a word of English. His family had all been wiped out when Arab militia attacked their village in Darfur. I spent Monday with him, taking some portaits of him in his flat and accompanying him into town. Remarkably, the following afternoon Hamed’s solicitor called to say he had been granted indefinite leave to stay. He has now been officially promoted from asylum seeker to refugee…wonderful news and a huge weight off his shoulders.
I had no idea about this today when I turned up at a charity destitution project where Hamed volunteers every week, but one of the organisers had kindly brought a bottle of Cava to mark the occasion. For me, the timing couldn’t really have been better…it’s really lovely to have caught such an occasion.
Although this is great news for Hamed, his journey doesn’t stop here. Once someone is granted their status, they face a host of new challenges. For a start, he now has about two weeks to vacate his current housing, which is provided by the state. He is finally going to be allowed to work, but he must get a National Insurance number and find a job. After the Easter weekend he will be sorting out his paperwork, contacting the job centre and trying to find a place to stay temporarily – a homeless hostel is a possibility if there are places. Without a job and cash for a deposit, finding permanent housing is obviously going to be tough. And then there is his college course. Hamed is partway through training to become an electrician. Whether he will be able to continue without the state support he has had since last autumn is in question.
This is certainly a story I will be following as he settles into his new life.