COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for us all, and particularly so for our clients. But not everything is as hopeless as it first looks.
Thanks to you, our supporters, we have managed to keep our services running throughout the pandemic and to provide our community with the support they need. We are helping a particular group of people right now – women and children suffering domestic abuse and violence.
My name is Caritas Umulisa - I’ve been involved with Asylum Welcome for a number of years, and earlier this year I became a member of staff, working directly with women and girls who are often in the greatest need. We’ve seen a growing number of cases of domestic abuse and violence over recent months; it’s one of the most difficult aspects of our work.
Sadly, this is an issue I know all too well through my own experience. I too fled my country, seeing domestic violence as a norm affecting my family and neighbours over 20 years ago. I sought asylum here in the UK looking to rebuild my life – thankfully, I was granted refugee status and I’ve built up professional knowledge and expertise in social care and women’s support services. So I can really empathise with those women I meet who are facing the most difficult time of their lives.
I want to share one story with you because it demonstrates the resilience of our clients in the face of great difficulty, and the best of what Asylum Welcome can do...
When I first met Khadija (not her real name), she was highly distressed. Khadija’s husband had been physically abusive towards her; the police and social services had got involved and Khadija’s husband had left. Khadija was now deeply anxious about the future, for herself and for her two young children.
I was shocked at her physical and mental state – she was trembling with fear, and there were clear signs that she had been beaten and hurt. The restrictions of the first lockdown were also adding to her anxiety and isolation.
"I was at the lowest point in my life... I felt scared about what would happen to me and I just didn't know what to do next."
Khadija - before being helped by Asylum Welcome
Like many women who have suffered from domestic violence, Khadija’s needs fell into two distinct phases. Firstly, she needed emergency financial help to stay in her home, change the locks, and ensure that she had food for herself and her children (one of whom has special educational needs and requires additional support). Asylum Welcome immediately provided Khadija with food deliveries and access to our hardship fund, and we put her in direct contact with the Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Service (ODAS).
Khadija, being on a spouse visa, had ‘no recourse to public funds.’ However, there is a concession for those who have suffered domestic violence and are at risk of destitution – and we knew how to help Khadija make a claim for Universal Credit. We managed to secure Khadija a basic income despite a very complicated process – her husband had tried unsuccessfully to claim money by fraudulently making a claim in her name.
Whilst Khadija and her children have faced a very uncertain legal future in the UK, Khadija’s husband has continued to threaten her and to cause immense anxiety and distress. During a ‘second phase’ of assistance, we provided Khadija with crucial emotional support, and helped her to access specialist immigration legal advice and support from social services. I know from my own experience that dealing with so many issues at the same time takes a devastating toll on one’s physical and mental health. But I also know that the expert help and advice given to someone as vulnerable as Khadija brings enormous relief and boosts confidence where none existed before.
Things are now getting much better for Khadija. She has shown remarkable fortitude in dealing with so many difficult issues at the same time, and we will continue standing alongside her every step of the way.
Stories such as Khadija’s are distressing, yet they show how Asylum Welcome helps asylum seekers and refugees facing domestic violence to cope and move forward. We know that we can only do this with your ongoing support.
With your support today we will help many more people like Khadija
Can you make a special donation of £20, £40 or whatever you can afford to help our clients cope, particularly vital during the winter cold months and even more so during the pandemic?
I hope you’ll feel able to make a special donation this winter. It will make all the difference.
Thank you and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,