For far too long, people who move here have been seen by our politicians at best as numbers, at worst as not deserving of just and humane treatment. They have created a system where having the right immigration status can be a matter of life or death.

As we celebrate Refugee Week, we call on leaders to do much better. It is time that newcomers were treated as we all wish and deserve to be – with dignity, respect and compassion.

Ade (not his real name), our client, is a 35 year old man from Nigeria. He left after suffering years of abuse and discrimination, after he went blind as a child. This spring brought welcome news of refugee status after an 8 year fight, living on £35 a week, in one room, and barred from working. “Finally, I don’t have to be scared about my status any more.”

He arrived in the UK in 2011, when his sister, a British citizen, arranged for him to come to the UK. It was not safe for him in Nigeria – he had been blamed for family tragedies, made homeless and robbed, and told that he wouldn’t get a job when there were able-bodied people available. He wanted to escape this discrimination, destitution and abuse – but he didn’t know how to build a life in the UK.

“I had no information and no one to ask. When my sister noticed I was trying to find information about staying in the UK, she got mad. She was scared I would get into trouble.”

For 15 months Ade stayed with his sister, with no way out. “I had no money. I was in limbo. My sister got frustrated, and kicked me out of the house. I got robbed on the streets. A friend saw me, and took me back to my sister.”

Everything changed after a chance encounter. “One evening, after Church, a lady gave me £10.” He used this money to take the first step on a long journey. “I thought, the Home Office is somewhere in London – I’ll go there. Let them do to me what they want to do.”

With a makeshift cane and relying on directions from passers-by, Ade travelled across London to the Home Office in Croydon.

“When I arrived, a security guard asked me what I wanted, and I just told him my situation. I didn’t know anything about asylum, about being a refugee.”

That day was the start of a journey that would take 8 years to complete.

His first application was rejected. “I didn’t have any guidance or advice from a lawyer. I thought the Home Office would just ask me what they needed to know.” He was told to leave his asylum accommodation.

The Council has a duty of care to accommodate Ade, due to his disability. “But they paid no attention until I got a solicitor involved.”

A fresh claim for asylum was also rejected. A promised judicial review never materialised, after a year of stalling by his lawyer.

After this, Ade was referred to JCWI. And finally, this spring, after he was able to put his case to a judge for the first time, he was granted status. “The first line of the battle has been won”, he reflects. “I have been fortunate. I was privileged to get a scholarship to study, and two years ago I completed my master’s.

“But I have had to fight for everything. It’s been a kind of mental torture. I feel time has been wasted – all this time living with these limitations.”

Finally, Ade has the right piece of paper. But the rights and opportunities which come with status should never have been denied. We all deserve the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and compassion. That should never be dependent on the papers you hold.

Please help us support more people like Ade, and join our fight for a fairer system, by donating today.

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