Posted: 08 December 2016

Arif's story, a child refugee

Our work with young migrants and refugees

Arif came to the UK from Bangladesh when he was 13 after his father was attacked for his political beliefs. With Arif's life in danger, he was sent to live with an uncle in the UK, but after years of no contact with his parents, Arif's uncle made him homeless. Discovering he did not have leave to remain in the UK, Arif became depressed and attempted suicide. He was eventually placed in a mental health facility, where he was introduced to The Children's Society. His project worker supported him with his asylum case and helped him to access appropriate accommodation and counselling. Now Arif has leave to remain in the UK for two and half years and is applying for jobs. This is his story.

The situation in Bangladesh

'All I know is that my dad worked in politics. One day, some people came to our house and attacked him. We suddenly heard screaming and my mum went out and saw our dad on the floor. dad told us our lives were in danger, so we left'

Arriving in the UK

‘I came to the UK with one of my sisters, I was 13. I thought my parents were coming with me. They said they were flying the following week, but they never…

'When we got here my uncle picked us up. I did really miss my parents a lot – I did cry. My uncle tried to get hold of them, but he couldn’t.

‘We stayed with my uncle, he joined me and sister to a school and a GP. But when I turned 16 or 17, my sister got married and my uncle said, he can’t look after me. He can’t afford it, there is no space.'

Now homeless

'I went to my college and told one of my teachers and she told me to go to the council office. They referred me to the social worker department. They kept on saying, “Go back to your uncle”. I went there many times, I was in and out, in and out, in and out – they kept on saying the same thing and they didn’t look after me.

'At the time I was sleeping at my friend’s house or I was sleeping rough. The local authority also found out about my immigration status, and they said, “Get hold of your solicitor”. At the time, I didn’t even know about the Home Office or my immigration status.'

Struggling with depression

‘I was really feeling low, getting depressed, anxiety. I don’t know what to do. I couldn’t find my way out, so I decided to kill myself.

'I woke up in hospital. From that day, they took me in and put me in shared accommodation. I didn’t feel like coming out from my room, I felt like staying in a dark place. Not eating, not engaging, sleeping all day. The manager of the place used to knock on my door every morning to get me to eat and go out, but I preferred to stay in my room. I didn’t feel like going to college either.

'The social workers said they were going to terminate my place, and then I harmed myself again. I did it two or three times. I ended up in a mental hospital. That place is not for me.'

The Children's Society

'While I was in the mental hospital, suddenly, somehow The Children’s Society got hold of me and they helped me through everything.'

'They helped me a lot with my accommodation, Home Office meetings, solicitor meetings, and counselling and meeting with my GP.

‘Where I am today, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those lovely people. I know they helped me a lot and I want to do something with my life and make them proud. They helped me and guided me, they’ve been there for me when I needed them most.'

Life today

‘I got my status and sorted out my housing benefit. I want to get a permanent job and my own house.

‘Living in a care home, living in shared accommodation, going through this at a young age – most people don’t have to go through that. Young people coming from a different country have to face all these problems. It’s really hard and difficult.

‘When I didn’t have my status I was stuck in one place, moving nowhere. It was horrible, I couldn’t do anything with my life.

‘When I met The Children’s Society I wasn’t really getting along and I found it hard to talk and I did find it scary. But honestly, open up with them, tell them how you feel. Tell them everything and they will try their best to help you.’

* Image of 'Arif' - A Model has been used in place of Arif to protect his identity

By Louise Jones - Digital team
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