Did people come here for work or to seek safety from persecution?

I was a lecturer at University in Baghdad. I have an MA in methods of teaching English as a foreign language, and I have a BA in English and Literature, and a diploma in engineering. I had a private institute in Baghdad to teach women sewing and arranging flowers. I have these skills. I worked for 30 years in Iraq. I am used to working. But in March 206 my husband was kidnapped and killed and this affected my life. I thought every knock on the door was someone coming to take me and kill me. I’m not afraid if they kill me directly, if they shoot me, but I am afraid of torture. I don’t want them to torture me and cut me into pieces, like they find the bodies on the street. At that time I was afraid of everything and I left everything, I left my mother, my father, left my job, left my home. Now I miss them. When I came here I thought I could study, find a job, work. For me, before I came, I thought of the UK like paradise. But when I came I found no work, no study or anything for asylum seekers. I was shocked. I don’t think this is a good system here.

When I came to the UK I didn’t know there wasn’t any right to work. I didn’t know about anything. I came here for safety. It is not a fair decision the Government took and I don’t think it was taken on the right grounds because by doing so it’s destroying our dignity. Did they had research it, about how they knew people were coming to work? I didn’t come here to ask for a work permit. No, I asked for asylum. But for how long will I be waiting, for what, when? I feel I am detained without trail. Detained indefinitely because I don’t know when. So why can’t I be given that little right, I need to work, I will feed myself and my family and restore my dignity. I don’t think it was a fair decision. That idea I would find is like years ago in South Africa during the apartheid years when the apartheid law was in force, people were not given education, sometimes people would work for no money, just work for food. Their aim was to cloak their brain but feed the stomach so life will continue but without the brains, without being able to do what you wish to do yourself then it becomes nothing. Its like what we are facing now as asylum seekers. Yes, you will be given those vouchers, eat, go to bed, eat, go to bed, you can’t even travel. In a way you end up like I am just waiting to die.

From 2002 (when the right to work was withdrawn by the Government) has this had any effect on the numbers of people coming into the country? Have people stopped coming because the right to work has been withdrawn? I guess not. The numbers have always been rising up. As long as there are conflicts in the world, when people flee from their countries, they are not fleeing because of lack of jobs, they are fleeing because of lack of freedom. And they want freedom. I guess one of the things which attracts people to England is there are robust systems of democracy, which I think makes it possible for people to be what they want to be and develop as they wish. People will always move around wanting to have freedom. Just like when the American state was started, when westerners started to go into South Africa because of conflicts in Europe. I guess people were not looking for better homes in South Africa or better homes in America but it was the age to be free. I think that’s the same reason why people want to come here, its not to look for jobs. But then once they are here I think it would be fair as well to give them to right to be themselves, to fend for themselves. Which will actually be cheaper to the state when people being allowed to fend for themselves and pay taxes. But to keep someone for ten years, I don’t think its a cost effective measure. So people don’t come to be fed and when people say “I want to work”, they are saying “I want to look after myself”, there is dignity to that.

Before I came here I never heard anything about any country, not even England. I didn’t know. I sought asylum and I heard that hear. I didn’t know I would be 2nd class person, maybe 3rd. I didn’t know. I thought everyone was respectable and the law would help you to continue your life. And I thought this country could make you forget about everything, but it wasn’t like that. We had been suffering from the Iraqi government and we’re suffering from this government. Our life is like between two fires, because our government tortured us and here too, but in a different form. I didn’t know I would be 2nd class citizen or worse, I didn’t know that. I thought everyone was free if you want anything you can work you can do anything you wanted like a normal life. No I didn’t know.

That’s not a strong reason. When I came here I gave my case. If they think its not true just take me out from this country. For example, I’m from Iraq. Everyone knows Iraq is a very rich country, I don’t have to work here. Different people come in, the Government's policy has to know which ones come to work and which really come for political situation. Mixing all is no good it affects everyone, I don’t think its a good idea. I don’t know who created this idea. I don’t know. its really bad. If they give us money instead of vouchers, its still the same. I don’t know why. I am looking for this answer, I don’t know why. What is the point?

There is no good reason behind it. Let them work. If the situation in their country gets better and they say go back and you’re not allowed to work anymore, then it is still the same. Because if they give me an opportunity to work and the government knows where I am working, its the same. Anytime they can say your country is ok and you can go back. But that’s not good to tell everyone you are not allowed to work. Whatever the government says about me, I lost more than 6 years. It affects me and its hard to go back on. You can’t be normal ever, it affects your life forever.

Even if the government’s argument is that some people are coming for work, then it becomes their duty to try and screen those who are coming here to work. But those who come to claim asylum cannot be denied their right to work just because there are ‘cheats’. It defeats the entire system. They cannot punish innocent asylum seekers who are genuinely running away from problems, and deny them when they come here, strip them of any dignity. I think that is adding salt to a wound

My appeal would be, and I am talking from the bottom of my heart, these are people who are going through horrible times in a civilised and developed country like this, and I think its unacceptable. In a country where they could contribute so much they are vilified as if they are animals. We have got to appreciate that we’ve become a village now and there is a lot that these people can give, a lot that we know they are able to give, and the government simply needs to open up. We are not saying they should open up for everyone, if there are loopholes they need to close then that is their duty to close those loopholes, but to ask people to give them money for nothing and food for nothing it just un-African, more so it is un-Zimbabwean.

I know the Government thinks so, but this will not decrease the numbers. People are coming into this country for other reasons, such as political or religious reasons. In my opinion it is not correct to disallow people from working. If these people were allowed to work while waiting for a decision to be delivered, it would have no affect at all to give those already here permission to work.

I had to go to Kenya because of my involvement in politics. I suffered a desert life for 16 years, where it was so hot, 45 degrees. I came to UK four months ago (under the Gateway refugee resettlement programme). I am very lucky and grateful that I was able to come here on this programme. But after I arrived here I was upset by the condition of my brothers and sisters who have not been able to work or live a normal life for 6 or 7 years as they have no work permits. They are suffering. Some people are actually evicted from their house and made homeless for 6 or 7 years without any kind of income, no work permit and no benefits.

First of all it should not have taken so long for their asylum cases to be determined, and I feel grief, really, really I feel grief that these things are allowed to happen. I plead for the Government to give them permission to work so that they can earn money and support their families. The government should decide so that these people can live a normal life. We ask the Government today and will continue to ask them in the future.

If it was safe again, I would like to go back home today, because there I have a job, home, family, my mother, brothers, friends. Here I haven’t got anything. I pray to God every day that if Iraq is safe I would like to return. Here in the UK everyone has their own life. I live alone and I am not used to it. I am used to living in a big family. You live alone, you eat alone, and even in Ramadan you used to have a big family all eating together. It was a shared life. I am not used to this here. For 50 years I lived in Iraq, and I am not used to being without a job. Maybe if I had a job I would get used to living here. But even then I would return if Iraq is safe. But at the moment I am still afraid. Maybe they will kidnap me and kill me. Up to now there are many militias there and no security there.