Our work with child refugees and asylum seekers
Akash came to the UK when he was 9 to visit family. But when his grandfather and uncle returned home to Bangladesh, they left Akash behind. This is his story.
‘It wasn’t up to me’
Akash lived with his aunt’s relatives for a number of years in the UK. Unknown to him, he had come to the country on a six month visitor’s visa, which he overstayed. When Akash was 14 the family took him to a solicitor to try and resolve his immigration status. The solicitor gave the family poor advice, which led to Akash’s application being rejected by the Home Office.
'I didn’t know the mess I was in'
The Home Office assessed Akash to be 16, two years older than his real age, which meant he could no longer go to school. He was given leave to remain in the UK for another eighteen months.
'I put all my faith in my family and solicitor because I thought they were acting in my best interests. I thought that the solicitor understood the law and I didn’t have to worry because the adults were dealing with everything. I didn’t know the mess I was in’.
By the time Akash’s leave to remain was about to run out, he started to understand more about his situation. He contacted The Children’s Society and met with a project worker to go through his case.
'What can I do? I don’t have a choice’
With the support of his project worker, Akash found a new solicitor who helped him put in another application with the Home Office. His project worker went with him on appointments, and helped him to understand the complicated legal process.
Due to restrictions on legal aid, Akash could not get any financial support to help with his immigration case. Even though he was 17 and still a child, he would have to pay the high legal fees himself.
‘It was devastating. My family’s finances were very limited, so I had to find a way to pay for my solicitor and fund my studies at college’.
Akash found a job leafletting for a mini cab company, where he still works earning well below the national minimum wage. ‘My job is quite exploitative’, he says, ‘I work six days a week with no holiday or sick pay. I get £3.50 per hour. What can I do? I don’t have a choice’.
'years of suffering and stress'
The Home Office found that Akash had a compelling case to be granted leave to remain in the UK, but his new application was refused because of the problems caused by his first solicitor. But with support from his project worker, Akash went through a long appeal process before a judge finally ruled in his favour.
‘The case has taken four years and it’s been an incredibly expensive process’, Akash says, ‘I could have been at university by now, but I couldn’t start my studies because I needed to fund my legal case. I couldn’t get a decent job. All these years of suffering and stress were unnecessary. It was a waste of years of my life’.
The stress and uncertainty of Akash’s years of legal and financial struggles have had a major impact on his mental health. ‘I felt really unstable. There were times when I felt suicidal’, he says, ‘I felt zombified – like I didn’t know who I was or where I belonged. It has been hard on my relationships. It continues to this day, I find it hard to trust people, to put my faith in them or get close to them’.
'The Children’s Society have been very helpful'
We have supported Akash with his mental health issues, and matched him with a volunteer befriender to make sure he receives the emotional support he needs.
Now, Akash has been offered a place to study law at university. He was awarded a grant through The Children’s Society’s George & Marion Slack Award to help him with his tuition fees and living costs at university. He hopes to become a teacher in the future.
‘I want to have a career and establish myself in this country – be part of the community. The people at The Children’s Society have been very helpful. I am very grateful to everyone’.
* Image of 'Akash' - A Model has been used in place of Akash to protect his identity