With a baby on the way I want to be the best father I can be, but until my claim is decided I can’t find employment
- This article is part of the heat or eat diaries: a series from the frontline of Britain’s cost of living emergency
Wed 21 Sep 2022 12.00 BST
Last month, my wife and I learned that we are having a baby boy. I feel really glad, so grateful, but at the same time, I want everything for him. It’s been more than a year since my interview with the Home Office and I have heard nothing: I still don’t know if we will have permission to remain in the UK. It’s frustrating when you have presented so much evidence, so many documents, and you know they have all the information to make a decision. Until they do, though, I don’t have permission to work – and we are still living off the £80 a week we receive in asylum support.
Now that we have a new prime minister, we’re watching the news, reading up on the new cabinet, looking at any speeches that could show what their policies towards asylum seekers may be. Will the new government make the processes faster or slower? We’re dependent on them for access to the NHS, to accommodation, for our son’s education and healthcare, for everything.
Earlier this year, with the first talk of transporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, I realised how quickly things can change. Part of my heart was thanking God that we hadn’t crossed the Channel illegally so it wouldn’t apply to us. The rest of my heart went out to the poor people who have risked their lives to come here, a country they believed to be safe, only to be told they now face going to Rwanda – somewhere they may know nothing about. For me, this would be terrifying.
Every week, it’s harder to live within our budget. When we first came to the UK, we were eating chicken maybe twice a week. Now we can’t afford that – we have a lot of baguettes stuffed with vegetables or some kind of filling. Bread is probably not so healthy, but at least it makes you feel as if you’re full. Last week, my wife and I started back at college for our English and maths classes. The four-day passes for the buses cost us £20. It meant we couldn’t put anything aside to save for the glasses that we both need – we think they will cost us £95 each. So for now, I have to sit at the front of the class where I can see, and try not to flag down the wrong bus because I can’t read the numbers on it!
Going to college is one thing that we can’t give up. We have accommodation, we’re not allowed to work at the moment, and we don’t pay energy bills – but I can see how hard it is, how everyone is suffering. It’s like standing on a beach where things appear calm, knowing a tsunami is approaching and you’re going to be in big, big trouble. If I am given leave to remain here, we will need to find a home, I’ll need to find a job that will pay all the bills, I’ll need to support my family.
I can see how hard it will be, but in my country, my family always worked hard. My parents were both teachers. My father actually had three jobs: teaching in a school, driving the school bus home and working as a tutor in the evenings. I hate to think of my son growing up and seeing me like I am now, as someone who doesn’t work, who doesn’t bring home the food, who sits around waiting for the result of his asylum claim. I want to be someone who contributes. I’d love to work in a job that involves taking care of people, so I’ve signed up for a course at my college on work in the mental health sector – although I had to join another long waiting list. I know I can do it.
- As told to Anna Moore. Paul is in his 30s and is an asylum seeker living in the north of England. Names have been changed
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