Racial Justice Network and anti-racist movements will lose a local activist on the 31st of August as she sets off to live in Botswana. But before she does, we decided to hear her story again and also hear about what lies ahead.
Jackie came to the UK 11 years ago to complete her Masters degree. She goes back with 11 years experience of the UK’s harsh migration policies. She was a teacher and head of department, a mother and well accomplished. She sold everything to sustain her children but also to pay her international students fees and accommodation. There were no anomalies raised by immigration officers as she went through passport control at the airport.
Jackie got alarmed when she tried to contact the college she was meant to be studying and accommodation she was meant to stay because with phone numbers changed and switched off, she could not get hold of anyone. On further investigation, she and others found out the college had been bogus and shut down by the home office but that information had not been passed on to new-coming students. Unaware of best action, Jackie then moved place to place and worked for low wages until she contacted the home-office.
What was tried; Jackie entered the process of seeking asylum and was represented by irresponsible lawyers and paid money for that. Jackie feels this greatly impacted on the situation today because she had to start appealing and case eventually went to tribunal.
I like many other asylum seekers was at everyone’s mercy; my solicitor, judges, migration officers, charity workers. I became a moving corpse, not doing much just existing. Did lots of voluntary work to keep busy. It felt like a different form of slavery because I did not have the option/choice to work for payment; Maslow’s hierarchy of life stood up and out very clearly. Theory talks about basic needs being met followed by psychological and self-fulfillment. Most marginalised groups and in this case destitute asylum seekers do not get food, shelter or safety so they fall below.
Jackie strongly believes that most people who migrate to this country to be a burden and do not come for handouts especially when they have skills and ability. Most want to contribute to the society they live in. They want to have a sense of worth and reason to get up in the morning. She initially worked as a carer and cleaner and for very little but the poverty, struggle got worse. The environment is so hostile it makes one hostile, it becomes difficult to see good when you have been through hell, sometimes turning on your own, turning on good people trying to help because everything becomes one huge struggle.
Migration affects everyone and more people should participate in this conversation. The lack of conversation about reasons why people migrate and role that the western society has played in it needs to be had for the treatment and reception of migrants to change; whether its climate change, colonialism, foreign policy including arms trade and many more. It will change the narrative of us and them but the fear and hatred around difference. Those who care should do more and be active in joining and supporting anti-racist organisations like Racial Justice Network and Migrants Organise. I was a lot more quiet when I arrived but frustration and racism got me to speak up and I encourage others to speak up too because silence does not help.
As I leave UK, I leave with an anger about experiences that I have had and injustice I have faced over the years. Even though I am returning to the country of birth with no money (I have not been allowed to work for 9 years and voluntary return declined to offer me integration money to resettle), I leave with a desire to turn my experience for the education of others here and in my home country and a yearning to see my family that I have not seen for over a decade.
I will be implementing skills and knowledge acquired as well as experiences for the betterment of others but i have some anxieties about how or where to start laying my foundations as I have no funds. Any support to do this is welcome.