Day 8

Meena’s story…

Sitting across the table from me, Meena narrates her story with confidence and grace, invoking her love for and her belief in the work to which she has dedicated almost her entire life: protecting the human rights of those most marginalised. Meena was born to migrant parents, who arrived in the UK in 1965. Growing up she had to bear witness to her parents struggles to access housing and employment, whilst she herself had to navigate cultural barriers and endure experiences of marginalisation in the form of sexism and racism. These experiences ultimately shaped and determined her career path and life goals.

Meena has worked with Asylum Welcome for the past seven months as the Coordinator of the Immigration Service. Her main role, as she describes it, revolves around holistically supporting asylum seekers, and refugees, in women and survivors of domestic violence. She joined the charity after thirty years of advocacy work within a London-based organization centred on providing support for survivors of gender-based violence. During this time, Meena was part of a team that shifted the tide of the debate on forced marriages in the UK and even made changes to the law in favour of black and minority women. One of the highlights of this time was in 1992, when Meena and her colleagues managed to release a woman who had been imprisoned for killing her violent husband. Meena’s attention shifted to immigration work after the introduction of an immigration group in her new organisation. Spurred on by this work and her drive to better the world, Meena describes her choice to join Asylum Welcome as a calling, a wish to give to the charity the learning and expertise she had spent decades accumulating.

When asked to talk about a memorable moment of the year during her time at Asylum Welcome, Meena narrates the story of a man who was unlawfully detained by the Home Office, and the success that followed. Having travelled from East Timor, via Portugal, to the UK in order to visit and support his mother in her illness, the young man contacted Asylum Welcome to apply for pre-settled status. (He was under Bail Conditions.) This application being made, the Border Agent at Gatwick asked him to return to Gatwick for an interview. He attended that appointment. Under pretences of a formal interview, the Home Office managed to detain the man with the intention of deporting him. When interacting with Meena, representatives of the Home Office displayed rudeness and engaged in blatant lies. Whilst at Gatwick the man was not allowed to speak to anyone. The uncle who referred him to us contacted our volunteer at Asylum Welcome, thus instigating a whole process of mobilisation and support around his case, which saw the involvement of the local MP, Layla Moran. The deportation was ultimately stopped. This shows the results of working together and protecting the human rights of marginalised people.

To be continued…

In 2021/22, Asylum Welcome supported 60% more clients than the year before with a wider range of services and a bigger budget than at any time in our history. We couldn’t do it without you. 🧡

As the national environment gets ever tougher for many of our clients and others like them, fleeing violence and persecution in so many countries, it is ever more important that we continue and extend our work.

If you can, please support our appeal today. Thank you for being part of the story.