Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Mr W's story

W arrived in the UK in November 1996 after a three month journey from China. He travelled with another 213 Chinese and spent at least 2 weeks inside a container on a ship.

‘到英国了 !’- ‘Here is the UK!’ - W can remember vividly when his friend shouted out while the ship was docking. The payment for the journey was 180,000 Yuen, about £15,000. After staying two and half months in different places, W applied for asylum. He started working soon after the application. His first job was in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, the job was 12 hours a day 6 days a week. Keen to repay his debt, W offered to work on his day off in the same restaurant. He was earning £190 a week. From this wage he paid £25 a week for his bed, a space in a bunk bed in a room shared with other 4 to 6 Chinese. He also spent about £13 a week on his bus fare to work, the journey took about 1 hour each way.

It took W 7 to 8 years to repay the debt he owed to the snakehead, the trafficker. He sent part of his earnings home to support his family. Through his contribution, his children, a boy and a girl who are now in their twenties, were able to go to school and finish their high school education. W has not seen his family since 1996.

W became ill in 2001 with hepatitis B. He was in and out of hospital between 2001 and 2003. He was working on and off during this period but was forced to take a 6 months break when his condition deteriorated. Within the first few months, he used up all his savings and had to move in with friends. The understanding was that he would move out once he recovered and was able to return to work. Nevertheless, after one and half years, his situation did not improve but worsened. His friends then expressed concern over his illness and wrote to the local council to seek assistance for W: ‘I could not offer any place for him (W) since he has serious health problem now. I am afraid his disease would affect us…’. However, without a regular income, W could not afford to move out and continued to lodge in his friends’ flat and was forced to borrow money from them to live on.

Between 2003 and 2007, W continued to work part-time in catering and other temporary jobs. However, never managed to secure a full-time job due to his illness and his frequent hospital appointments. In 2008 his condition deteriorated further and he was admitted to hospital in early 2008. W was diagnosed with a malignant liver tumour. The lesion was treated during his admission and W was assessed as needing a liver transplant. Unfortunately, the hospital could not list W for the operation because of his status as a failed asylum seeker; W’s asylum application had been refused in 2003. Although he had paid National Insurance contributions between 1996 and 2003, W’s legal status meant that he had no entitlement to NHS treatment. The specialist liver transplant social worker then referred W to the Refugee Council to seek other assistance.

W has been living in London since 1996, and during his asylum application between 1996 and 2003 he was working legally and making National Insurance contributions. Despite this, and after having been in the UK for 12 years, he still could not be listed for the liver transplant operation or receive any social assistance. In addition to his physical illness, W is also suffering from depression. Since early 2008 W has not been able to work and has had to live by borrowing from friends. W’s main wish is to receive appropriate treatment and recover from his illness.

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