On Thursday 25th January is the UNESCO International Day of Education.
Without recourse to public funds, many refugee friends JRS UK works with are not able to attend college or university. In this blog post, our friend shares her hope to study, a message to young people in schools, and some insight into her experiences of seeking asylum in the UK.
I’m from Vietnam. I’m 34 years old, and I came to the UK in 2013. I came to the UK because I would like to escape my religious repression.
Asylum seekers receive some government support when they first apply for asylum in the UK. However, this support isn’t always of a good standard or enough to live on:
“The Home Office’s accommodation is very horrible. It’s not up to standard, with broken facilities, no kettle, no hot water, no thick blanket, no light, no electricity, broken windows, glasses and mirror, and there’s lots of bed bugs, cockroaches, mice, spiders and flies. Where my friend lives, there’s 8 people but only 1 cooking pan. These accommodations have strict rules for asylum seekers. If the Home Office refuses accommodation support, asylum seekers will be homeless or have to find themselves a place to stay. You don’t have any choice about where you live, or who you live with.
“You can have problems getting asylum support and have financial difficulties because the Home Office’s support isn’t enough to live on: if you’re in catered accommodation that provides meals, you’ll get £8.86 a week, and if you have your own household/accommodation, you’ll get £49.18 per week. The cost of everything is increasing, so you don’t have enough money to buy food or pay for travel expenses with this weekly allowance.
“Asylum seekers may be allowed to work if they have not received any decision on their claim within 12 months. However, this is restricted to jobs on the Shortage Occupation List published by the Home Office. These jobs are doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, architects… which are not suitable or asylum seekers who are vulnerable and not skilled workers. Therefore, they’re not qualified for these jobs and unable to apply for these jobs.
The support available to you is removed if your asylum claim is refused. However, asylum seekers can get refused on their cases for all sorts of reasons, and people in this situation often do eventually get permission to stay, but only after years of legal ‘limbo’. During this time, you cannot rent anywhere to live, you cannot work, and you cannot receive government support.
“If your asylum claim is refused, you’re banned from work and have no support, so you’re destitute.
It’s not easy to get a solicitor from Legal Aid if your asylum claim is exhausted.
They have to live in the hostile environment, in the limbo of the asylum system. I wish this system can be changed now.
Living in limbo
“Waiting [for asylum] has been like living in limbo because of without work permission, independence, freedom, happiness and wasting lots of time, especially causing mental illness due to waiting for a long time.
I met JRS UK in 2021 thanks to a volunteer staff at the foodbank who introduced me to JRS UK because that foodbank only allows me maximum 12 visits. Therefore, I’m not allowed to get any food there anymore, and she recommended me to [go to] JRS UK.
I do some activities with JRS such as Create & Make, the Social Drop-In, English classes, outdoor gym sessions and creative writing. I wish JRS could connect with universities so that I can have a chance to study again.
Hopes for the future
It’s very difficult for asylum seekers to study at the university/college because the university only accepts 1 asylum seeker or a refugee to get a Sanctuary Scholarship per academic year. Some institutions allow maximum 3 or 4 asylum seekers or refugees per academic year to receive the Sanctuary Scholarship. This is very limited, so I still don’t have any chance to study at the University, and I’m unable to pay for the tuition fee, as it’s very expensive for me.
My hope for the future is I can have a good job and can study at University. I wish I could tell young people in schools that they are very lucky to go to school, so they should study hard to get better lives in the future.
We’ve added this to our bank of Schools and Young People resources, along with questions for reflection and a few possible next steps for young people who want to learn and do more. Check it out: https://www.jrsuk.net/schools/