Peter was born and brought up in southern Africa. His youth was comfortable enough. His family ran a truck hire business and the volatile political situation did not intrude on Peter’s life. The economic situation deteriorated and with it the level of violence increased. The regime’s goons came knocking and Peter’s family were murdered. He himself was left for dead, but was smuggled over the border, semiconscious, by his neighbours.

After he recovered, he fled to the UK on a student visa and claimed asylum. As a 19-year-old from the other side of the world, he had no conception that he was in a legal battle for his life. Traumatised and without legal representation he stood no chance against the Home Office’s narrow and suspicious understanding of the refugee convention. His claim was rejected.

The asylum process is not quick and, as it dragged on, Peter set about rebuilding his life. Studying accountancy was too much given his traumatised state, so instead he trained up as a carer and volunteered at his church. He met a British woman. They fell in love and started a relationship. As Peter was not allowed to work, things were not easy. Nevertheless the relationship strengthened. Eventually, Peter married his partner and was able to claim leave to remain on the grounds of his family life.

Peter started work as a carer and had a child. Things were going well, but over time the relationship soured. Peter was homeless for a short while. He started a relationship with a colleague, but it didn’t last because he was spending so much time looking after his son. He put in a new application for leave based on his new relationship, but without the money required for a solicitor, he didn’t have much hope. Peter lost his right to work and his home.

Peter struggled on living in a tent to stay close to his son. He kept battling for his right to remain. Things were tough. The local authority evicted him from his camping ground and, with no entitlement to any public housing, he was shuttled between homelessness charities before arriving in Brighton. Voices in Exile sent Peter our way to see if we could help him prepare for his immigration tribunal. Thanks to our Destitution Solidarity Fund, we were able to help him make regular contact with his son and pay for some legal advice. We also referred him to Positive Action in Housing’s Room for Refugees scheme. He had a place to live. Peter had to represent himself at his own immigration tribunal, but he did a great job and in july 2017 he received leave to remain. Peter is now able to move on with his life, support himself, care for his son and take his rightful place as a member of our community. He would never have been able to do that had he not had a place to call home whilst he prepared for his tribunal hearing. Would also never have been able to maintain his family life if people are not made generous contributions to our destitution solidarity fund. Enormous thanks must go to Positive Action in Housing and to all of the people the contribute, financially or emotionally, so that Peter, and people like him, can make a bit of life for themselves here in the UK.

Father and Son
By Alex from Ithaca (Father and Son) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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