Ragtag Saturday: Asylum – from Kurdistan to Leeds

Ripon is a City of Sanctuary: one of many cities throughout the UK proud to offer a place of safety, sanctuary and support to those fleeing violence and persecution.

At a recent meeting of the group, an asylum seeker from the Kurdistan region of northern Iran told her story. I’d like to share it with you.

X is an intelligent young woman with a loving and close extended family. After school, she went to University to study, and met the man she went on to marry.

As they began their lives together, they began to question their Muslim faith. They took their doubts seriously. They looked at other world religions, like Christianity. They prayed, they read, they trawled the net in search of answers.

One day, their house was raided. They came home to find their computer taken, their books in disarray, and anything dealing with religion also taken. They knew they were in danger.

Family members rang up. ‘You need to go. Quickly. Don’t bother to get stuff together, or get your affairs in order. Just go.’

So they did. First of all, they went to Germany, then England, where they spent about a month in the prison-like surroundings of an asylum seekers’ detention centre. They were advised to find someone in England who would be prepared to act as a sponsor. Somehow, X’s father found someone in Sheffield, and that’s where they went next.

I don’t really know the next bit of the story: only that she spent a great deal of time under the care of the NHS before they ended up in Leeds. And that’s where they are now. After more than two years, their application for immigration status has still not been heard, so they live on their allowance of £37.75 a week each which covers everything apart from housing: their food, household needs, clothing, transport, fuel and heating…..

They’re intelligent and highly qualified – X’s husband is an engineer, she a business studies graduate, and both of them have learnt English from scratch whilst being here. But neither of them is allowed to work. They would like to. They’d like to be tax-paying and contributing members of British society. Instead they draw their meagre benefit and do voluntary work and eke out a precarious existence, not knowing what will happen next.

X has had a break. The University of Bradford has offered her a place, and a scholarship open only to asylum seekers to read for a Foundation year in medicine. She’s grateful to the NHS and wants to give something back .

I have no photos to illustrate this story. Instead, I’ve chosen a gallery of images from Unsplash to try to help us all imagine what she thinks of when she remembers the life she has lost in Iran: her family, the countryside and townscapes, the culture she has left behind. She must have complicated feelings: grateful on the one hand to be safe; fearful of the future; homesick for her family and former home, and the life she thought she and her husband were preparing for; excited by her new opportunity; worried about money – all the time, and about their asylum application.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is Sanctuary.https://wp.me/p9YcOU-nq

To view the gallery full size, click on any image.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

25 thoughts on “Ragtag Saturday: Asylum – from Kurdistan to Leeds”

  1. It’s important to share stories like this lady’s. She’s a thoughtful person, she wants and is able to contribute and we would all benefit if that could be arranged. I hope sense will prevail for her.

    I believe, the way we are going, that some of our biggest coastal or estuary cities will be permanently under sea water in my life time or within a few decades after. (When I say ‘our’, that is taking a world view). Our treaties to cover weapons of mass destruction have been abandoned in a time when even a tiny perfume bottle of noxious chemicals can cause havoc in one of England’s cities. It amazes me that our elected leaders don’t consider how that will play out: how they would feel if they or their families needed somewhere else to live themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. In these difficult times, political, economic and ecological, cooperation is the only way forward. And a bit of common humanity towards our fellow citizens. In the widest sense.


  2. Your heartfelt and sympathetic telling of the story of X and her husband make me care about them instantly and I feel for them through these anxious times. I do hope that they find permanent sanctuary and can make a real and rewarding home in the UK. If you hear anything further about their application do let us know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a courageous couple and thank you for sharing their story. You’ve helped humanize the stories we hear about anonymous ‘refugees’ or asylum seekers – so many people looking for a little peace and freedom in this troubled world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine leaving everyone and everything I love to come to a country with a very different culture, where I don’t speak the language. They’ve already achieved such a lot.


  4. You make them very real, with your story, and yet they are just two individuals who represent SO many souls who are in similar situations. I hate our contemporary attitudes about immigrants and am ashamed of my own country and the heinous ways we’re behaving towards asylum seekers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think any visiting Martians would look at humanity and see how much we have achieved collectively, but then be confused and bemused by how equally mean and petty some human beings can be. Ironically, the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy was launched on our society from the Home Office when Theresa May (vicar’s daughter, and practising Christian) was Home Secretary. Personally, I would like to see her and Philip try to live on £37.75 a week each for a year whilst staying in local council B&B accommodation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. If TM is an example of Christianity in action, I want none of it. I do worry about how X will cope as a student living some distance from Bradford, however generous her scholarship turns out to be. Every penny will count.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is such a great opportunity I really hope that she overcome any travelling issues. Perhaps this foundation course can be taken mostly online and using libraries. Of course, a good broadband connection also costs more money. I don’t suppose these difficulties ever cross the minds of the Mays.


      2. Well, they probablt think internet access is an optional extra these days. I’m hoping X is given some kind of travel voucher, because actually spending time with her fellow students and her tutors would be invaluable I think. Bradford and Leeds are well-connected as far as public transport goes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing X’s story, Margaret. This young couple have had to overcome such difficulties during the past couple of years! I hope all works out well for them eventually.


  7. I have heard and read ‘stories’ or rather of extra-ordinary fates like these. It’s heartbreaking and sad beyond words. It also makes me even more thankful for the huge chances I’ve had in my life. OK, my dad didn’t allow me to take up the studies I wanted because (those were the late 60th!) it would have meant that he (our family) would have taken a bourse from the city which later on I would have had to reimburse. As my father himself was a child of the war and profited from his status as a Swiss but came in from Germany, he couldn’t bring himself to accept ‘any more offerings’ from the city….. I held it against him for quite a few years before I realised that his refusal actually meant that I’d learned a trade I could work everywhere, world wide. Which is what I did. So how much chance did I have! And these work-willing, educated, wonderful people are being treated like rubbish….
    It’s good of you to share also some rather unsavoury tales; we mustn’t become indifferent to these very unflattering happenings around us. I only wish MORE people would be willing to learn about refugees and their struggles; it could only open up minds and hearts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the problem. While campaigning against Brexit, you wouldn’t believe how many people sincerely believe that asylum seekers put themselves through all that danger, stress, financial hardship, family break-up etc. etc. so they can get loads of benefits (untrue) and take all our jobs. Europeans, refugees, asylum seekers … all the same, and all bad. It’s depressing. It’s worrying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In many Swiss people’s mind, it’s sadly the same…. Plus ça change!!!!! I always and often said to those small-narrow-minded people: You should be obliged to live abroad in another country and then come back. You’d be more generous, understanding, and broader minded…..
        Mind you, that really made me new friends! Not.

        Liked by 1 person

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