We would like to share with you the stories of three Afghan families and individuals who we have been supporting since their arrival 2 months ago. 

These stories highlight what many people coming from Afghanistan have had to endure and are testament to their resilience and hope for a better future and life in the UK. To our surprise, one of them was someone we actually knew from when he arrived to the UK many years ago as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking minor who escaped from Afghanistan when he was 14! They are also evidence of the wonderful work that Asylum Welcome’s staff and volunteers and the broader community are doing to making these people feel welcomed, cared for and supported as they are going through one of the most challenging experiences anyone can have. They have left behind family, friends, homes, everything; this has happened so suddenly and with the uncertainty of not knowing what their future holds for them… and yet all are looking forward to continuing their lives, pursuing their studies, finding work, and helping others.

* please note that real names have not been used to protect the identity of these individuals *

Ali

Ali arrived in the UK in September with her two brothers. She was studying at university in Afghanistan and was worried that her education would end. When she was in the quarantine hotel, she was constantly worrying about how people in the UK would react to her and if she would get the opportunity to study again. Since leaving quarantine, she has explained that she has regained hope in the new hotel she is in.

She explained that she has met so many new people who have been so kind to her and are helping her to move on with her life, helping with everything from booking doctors’ appointments to applying for English classes and even scholarships so that she can study again. She hopes that when her English has improved, she can finish her degree in Business Studies and teach other people too.

She explained that she is so happy, not just because she has now started an English class but also because she is studying with lots of other women from Afghanistan who may have not had the chance to study at home. A highlight for her was the recent women’s day out, organised by Asylum Welcome, where she had a haircut and a henna tattoo. She explained how happy she felt to be with the other women, dancing and listening to music. Now all the worry that she felt in the quarantine hotel has gone and she is looking forward to continuing her studies and finding work.

Abdul

"Since we arrived, I would like to thank all the team. On the first day we arrived at the hotel, they welcomed us like a brother and sister, a very warm welcome. They welcomed us outside happily with a smile, very organised, thank you to all. I was not expecting this, but it makes me feel like we live in a castle with all the family.

Sometimes I’m thinking how do they manage all these things. They are working with us very hard, they listen to everyone, every day. And also they support us with everything we need and I am really thankful and appreciate this. I have no complaints. GP, doctors, everyone has been so helpful. I feel like I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to work. I will try my best to manage, which hopefully I will do. I don’t want to sit and do nothing. My first goal is that I would like to be a bus driver.

We are very happy that our children are now going to school, the kids are so excited to now be at school, it’s a lovely school. We could not have dreamed of this.”

Mohammad

One of the guests escaped Kabul with his wife and young children. At first, he was very quiet, but one day came to us and said that he knew us from before. It turned out that he was an unaccompanied minor who escaped from Afghanistan when he was 14. At that time, he was left alone in Oxford after a hard journey, knowing no one and with nothing. He then came to know Asylum Welcome. Sadly, an age assessment went wrong for him, and he lived for a few years with no status and with great fear, often on the run. The one organisation that he trusted was Asylum Welcome; they helped him fight his case. In the end, he was granted status and indefinite leave to remain.

Having got a job and having settled, he built a new life. He went to Afghanistan to visit his wife and children but got caught there due to Covid. Then the Taliban advanced and he was trapped. He managed to escape with his family in the evacuation. They landed and were put into an isolation hotel in a UK airport. They were stuck for 18 days, staring at the walls and worrying what might happen next. Given his past experience, he worried for his family. They were then put on a bus in the dark not knowing where they were going. He was afraid. He then heard that they were heading to Oxford, a place he knew. He then got off the bus and was welcomed by Asylum Welcome.

““I was so relieved. I then knew I was safe.” Mohammad

If you would like to read more about our work supporting many other recent Afghan arrivals, please click here to read a blog by Mark, Asylum Welcome’s Director, and here to see all our updates related to supporting Afghans at this critical time.

If you would like to contribute to our work to enable us to continue supporting the recent Afghan arrivals and the many other refugees and asylum seekers that we support across Oxfordshire, please donate.

Thank you.

* Featured image of women working, photo Credit: Paula Lerner – Aurora Photos*