There are asylum seekers in Newbury who are currently sleeping on the streets after being granted their Right to Remain in the country by the Government. These individuals, including two fathers from Sudan and Syria, had been residing at the Regency Park Hotel for almost two years, having fled their home countries.
A group of people are currently camping outside the West Berkshire Council offices, among them is Abdulkareem, aged 36. Abdulkareem is a Syrian refugee who fled his country by boat after being drafted into the army and refusing to fight. He had to leave behind his wife and two young children, with the hope that they will join him in England once he secures a home, job and enough money to support them.
For the past year and eight months, Abdulkareem has been living in a hotel, where he has been unable to work despite his experience as a chef and construction worker. He was also midway through a philosophy degree in Syria. After a long wait, he has finally been granted the Right to Remain from the Home Office. During his stay in the hotel, Abdulkareem received a meagre weekly allowance of £7 while he waited for his paperwork to be processed.
During their stay, asylum seekers are not permitted to work. Many choose to volunteer with charities and local organizations. However, once their Right to Remain is processed, their allowances cease, and they have only seven days to find a job and a place to live.
Abdulkareem shared with Newburytoday, through an interpreter, that the Job Centre cannot send him job vacancies until he provides proof of residence. Unfortunately, West Berkshire Council has no available housing for him. With no financial assistance, Abdulkareem relies on Newbury Soup Kitchen for his meals. He had planned to study English during his time at the hotel to increase his chances of finding employment. Fortunately, local volunteers provided him with a tent and a blanket to shelter him during these difficult times.
He has been outside the council offices since September 20. “The hotel was a roof over my head as I come from a war zone,” he said. “We are victims of a war that we have nothing to do with. “There was destruction everywhere. “For a year and eight months I was doing nothing and your mental health gets really bad.” The father of two added: “The worst part is when my daughter called me and said hi daddy how are you and I couldn’t tell her I was in the street. “That really got to me.” His wife – who is a geography graduate – hopes to come and live with him but Abdulkareem worries she and his children may end up in another tent next to his. And he is not the only one in this situation.
Translator Reem Gabriel fears that other asylum seekers – who are beginning to receive their Right to Remain – will meet the same fate in the coming weeks. Sleeping in the tent next to Abdulkareem is 52-year-old Sudanese man Ali. Back home in Dafur, Ali was a famer but he says his farm was burnt down by rebel group Tora Bora. He became the victim of racially driven hate and discrimination and said he had to flee – by boat – to build a safer life for him and his family. Ali also left behind his two children – a ten-year old and a 15-year-old. He said: “The problem is even if we borrow money and want to rent somewhere, no one is giving us any rent. “Rain water has gone into my tent and everything is wet inside.
“There is no place to go.” Newbury MP Laura Farris said she had not been aware of the situation outside the council offices but said a sensible solution must be reached. She said: “I did know that they [asylum seekers] were being given seven days’ notice and I have raised this with the Home Office – both in a letter and a written Parliamentary question. “It does not surprise me that West Berkshire Council has limited accommodation given the work that has gone on accommodating refugees from Ukraine and to a lesser extent, Afghanistan, over the last two years.
The current situation requires urgent coordination. The goal is to find a sensible solution to help successful asylum seekers transition into work and accommodation without ending up homeless.
This issue will be brought to the attention of the immigration minister this week. The West Berkshire Council is providing support for these asylum seekers, but due to the local housing supply pressures, it may take some time. All requests for housing support are being processed equally, without discrimination. Asylum seekers are currently being referred to charitable organizations while the council follows strict legislation regarding emergency accommodation criteria, which they do not meet. Newburytoday has reached out to the Home Office for their input.
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