My name is Bilen* and I am 19 years old. This is my story. I grew up with my grandparents in my country Eritrea as my mother left me when I was eleven months old with my older sister. I don’t know anything about my dad as he was jailed in Ethiopia and my family never heard anything about him since that time. My mother moved to the United Kingdom. But she spent over ten years struggling hard to get her residence permit and was finally granted it. It was in 2011 that I got a chance to finally meet my mother for the first time.
And months later I left my country, when I was fourteen years old to Sudan, so I could join my Mother. We started the process as soon as I arrived in Khartoum. But due to some reasons my appeal was refused twice by the UK embassy. This was the moment that I totally gave up on it. Everything seemed to be hopeless. Imagine it for a young little girl living all by herself in a country which is not secure. I was staying at home all the time; nothing to do, no education, no family, trying to cope with the culture (as it is a Sharia country) and it was way too hard for me. I didn’t feel I fitted into life with the way of my living. I was likely to feel hopeless and sad, more likely to feel as if nothing really makes a difference; and there is nothing I or anyone can do about it. People say the worst part is waiting, waiting helplessly. I spent more of my years in there crying.
My mother was in huge fear and worry about my safety there. Hence the Southwark Day Centre team contacted the UNHCR in Khartoum and I was guaranteed the basic human rights and physical security to ensure that I didn’t have to return involuntarily to a country where could face persecution.
Through out all this procedure the Southwark Day Centre were on my mother’s side giving her hope and trying their best
to succeed in getting my visa. Prevention is better than cure, and most definitely so in the case of visa applications.
My visa application was planned and checked thoroughly by the Southwark Day Centre with the necessary expertise and
experience in the field of immigration. They took the utmost care to prevent our frustration at the visa being turned
down. On 14th August 2015, the judge accepted my case and I finally got my visa. I arrived to the United Kingdom on the
third month of this year.
I was warmly welcomed by Southwark Day Centre with a Big Welcoming Party. I have never felt so loved this way. I always thank God that he gave me such a big family. I got to meet so many lovely people out there. Encouraging and supporting me whenever I need them, they are always there for me.
As a new arrival in a new country, the main problem that everyone faces is searching for potential advisers in every situation. I was lucky enough to have Southwark Day Centre who provided me with general advice with particular emphasis on my education and immigration issues. As a result of this, I am now studying on my access to higher education
in one of the colleges in London. And with their support, I have got my travel document plus biometric residence permit
within three months and travelled to Germany this summer.
Words cannot express my gratitude toward the Southwark Day Centre for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, who are representing the impact of a truly charitable organisation. Changing the lives of so many people every day in every aspects of their lives. Even though every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, Southwark Day Centre makes them
share a common thread of uncommon courage, the courage not only to survive, but to preserve and rebuild their shattered
lives. They work to promote our belief in respect for human rights and freedom rather than fear. This is the kind of hope that enables us to live fully in the present moment.
* not her real name