Thursday, 9 April 2009

Hadassah's story

My name is Hadassah, from Kingston, Jamaica. I am 24 years old. In 1999, my mother fled to England in fear of her life because of her affiliation with the opposition political party. The political activists targeted my mum and threaten her life so she had to flee for her life. In 2000 my mother sent for me, as she feared what might become of my sister and me. The activists were now targeting me and making sexual advances at me from the age of 14. I was even scared to go to school.

I arrived in the UK on a one month visitor’s visa. I was 15 at the time and enrolled into a local school. I left school with five GCSE’s and went on to achieve three A-Levels. I had always dreamt of going to University to do Hospitality and Tourism Management. I want to show the beauty of Jamaica beyond the stereotype that all Jamaicans are ‘Yardies’. We are an ambitious and intellectual people – I come from a family with a strong emphasis on education. I was excited when I received unconditional offers to study at Birmingham, Portsmouth or Sheffield. I visited all three and chose Birmingham. I made all the arrangements for accommodation and applied for a student loan. All I needed was a letter from the Home Office stating that I was under NAS support. After initially waiting for a year for a response from the Home Office, I finally received a visit from a representative. They promised that the necessary letter for my student loan would be sent within two weeks. I am still waiting for that letter to arrive.

As hope turned to despair, my drive to go to University started to wane. I felt as though my dreams had been shattered. My grandmother died in 2007, I hadn’t seen her for over 7 years, and I could not go back to Jamaica for her funeral. I have had to deal with the pain so many miles away, I felt so isolated. Things got really desperate, as due to unforeseen circumstances we were left homeless, and our application for asylum was rejected on the grounds that political activism is not common among Jamaicans. My mother’s political activism was not seen as strong enough grounds for asylum even though our lives were in danger, even though a letter was sent from the Inspector of Police in Jamaica as confirmation.

Living in limbo has been a tough and lonely experience. I could not go on school trips due to passport issues; I could not work and earn money to buy my own things. I have survived by the grace of God. While our case was pending we were on £110 per NASS support for all three of us (my sister came to the UK in 2002). This was cut off without warning. I have received so much help from generous friends and people from my church. If it hadn’t been for them I don’t know how I would have survived.

However, people can only do so much for you for so long. Some want to help you when it is convenient for them; others want you to pay for utilities when they know you are not working; others want something in exchange for the roof over your head. There were times when I have been asked to leave someone’s house because I had over-stayed my welcome. I have moved 6 times in 18 months. It was embarrassing and humiliating. You are treated like a leech and a free-loader. But I am still very thankful to all those who have helped me; for feeding me; for shelter; and at times making me feel at home away from home - it is better than living on the streets.

I have been able to do some voluntary work to keep my hopes and dreams alive. However, my mum has gotten seriously ill over the whole situation, and my sister has lost hope - she is fed up of waiting around aimlessly.

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