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article imageOne man's search for asylum Special

By Jody-Lan Castle     Apr 8, 2013 in Politics
London - "I'm proud to be British," Aram Rawf answered when I asked him whether he felt a part of the UK. In 2012, he finally became a British citizen, after his 10-year battle to stay here.
31-year-old Aram Rawf from Ramsgate had a long and uphill struggle to gain refugee status in the UK.
He was born in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, a place that has been striving to become an independent state for decades. He claims that a Kurdish terrorist group, that some of his family members had been involved with, had tried to force him to become a suicide bomber. When he refused, they tortured him and his sister helped him to flee the country.
I come from North of Iraq, I'm Kurdish. We used to have country call Kurdistan. After the 1st World War it was divided between 4 countries; Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. We had our own language.
His journey into the UK reflects that of many of the young asylum seekers who flee to the UK.
In age 17 I arrived in the UK. I couldn't speak English but I was speaking and reading Kurdish, Arabic and Farsi. After 7 days in the back of a lorry, I got off on the motorway and didn't know where I was. Then the Police took me to Immigration in Dover and they told me through an interpreter that I'm in the UK and safe. They give me £9 and a map they sent me by public bus to Margate.
Once an asylum seeker has claimed asylum, they will be sent to initial temporary accommodation if needed. This is usually in the form of a hostel or induction centre.
They will usually then complete a lengthy asylum interview about their case and apply for accommodation and government support. Until a decision is made on their asylum application, they will be sent to Home Office-run housing, though some asylum seekers find housing with friends and claim 'subsistence only.'
In 2009, there were cuts to the amount of financial support given to asylum seekers. The previous amount, which was 30% lower than British citizens on income support, was below the poverty line. But the change now means that they receive 45% less than those claiming income support. This works out at £5 a day.
Many people think asylum seekers get too much money but in reality is not true. They only get £36.32 a week to live on. I have to correct many people but then must of them haven't met asylum seekers or refugees, they just heard of what they heard from the media and some are just closed minded.
Until an asylum seeker gains refugee status or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), they are not entitled to work in the UK. So Aram did a lot of voluntary work for refugee organisations and charities.
5 years later I got a UN interview to be asked why I left Iraq. By that time I was already interviewed by many newspapers locally, nationally and internationally. Then the UN refused my case because they were worried. I appealed against it then they refuse me again. I was still working under stressful time and the physiological pressure of the 3 years they didn't allow me to work or earn anything.
Asylum seekers can be detained in immigration removal centres at any point within the processing of their asylum claim. The UK has 12 of these centres.
Before I got detained for 9 days but under pressure of media attention and many publicity they let me out.
3 years later they give me ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain), then 1 year later I apply for citizenship and now I'm a proud British man, I gained lots qualifications and prizes last year, I came out as an outstanding student.
Aram's case took 10 years to be settled, reflecting the recent controversy over the UKBA's (UK Border Agency) alleged 24-year backlog of asylum claims.
More about Immigration, United Kingdom, Asylum, asylum system, asylum seeker
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