Abeni (anonymised name) came to the UK from West Africa. She was expecting her first child and knew no one. Abeni was first accommodated in a shared room in a hostel. She couldn’t see outside from her room, and slept on the top bunk heavily pregnant. Abeni was later relocated to a house, but it was cold and needed lots of repairs.
Abeni was left without legal representation after her first application for asylum was refused. She attended her court appeal alone, and her application was refused again. When Abeni’s first son started nursery, Abeni was introduced to The Children’s Society who offered her practical and emotional support. As Abeni couldn’t afford to pay for solicitors, they introduced her to Manuel Bravo Project. We took over Abeni’s case and made sure she was accompanied when reporting to the Home Office.
5 years into her asylum journey, Abeni was asked to report with her children. They had fingerprints and pictures taken, and Abeni was asked about her background. She thought she was going to be deported, but two weeks later Abeni was told she was being granted Discretionary Leave – 10 years stay with renewal of her papers every 2.5 years. “It was a miracle… that completely changed my life and that of my family”.
Abeni chose to study childcare at college “… to give back to nursery what they did for me… to support other families the way I was being helped”. She wanted to become a nurse, but without indefinite leave to remain, she isn’t eligible to apply for student loans to pay for university fees. Abeni has worked as a nursery assistant with the council for the past 6 years.
Last year, Abeni was granted the last 2.5 years stay before she can apply for indefinite leave to remain and Abeni’s youngest children were recently granted British citizenship. Manuel Bravo Project have stayed as Abeni’s legal representatives the entire time and will continue to until she no longer needs our help.
Abeni’s last application took 7 months to be processed by the Home Office, and she still worries that her application may be refused. “Each time I want to renew my papers… I just feel like I just came to this country brand new, because I have to relive those stories again and everything I’ve been through”.
Abeni is grateful that all her children are now British citizens and is hoping that she will be too. “It’s 13 years now [in the UK asylum system]… hopefully I will get there one day and won’t have to renew my papers again”.
Call to action
There are countless people like Abeni stuck in limbo as a result of the UK’s hostile environment, donate now to support Manuel Bravo Project and help address this crisis.