An A to Z of Poverty
By current and former clients of Freedom from Torture
A Write to Life Production in film and words
A IS FOR AKAMWANYI by Uganda
Akamwanyi is a noun. It refers to a coffee seed or a small subsidy.
Emwanyi, another noun, means coffee plantation.
Rehabilitation is a bendy road that one has to walk through to be able to restore, maintain, improve and regain what was lost in the past. Through this journey you need all the help you can get. Trying to leave the past behind and looking forward to the future doesn't happen overnight. Most of the time one is tired, damaged and hopeless.
Akamwanyi is a Lugandan word from the kingdom of Buganda. The word means 'a small coffee bean', and it's used as a sign of friendship. The sharing of coffee beans, especially during marriage ceremonies, speaks volumes.
Akamwanyi is one bean. A token. But to make a cup of coffee you need many beans: you need Emwanyi.w
Think of a group of people in a neighbour's house, with the neighbour next to the coffee machine. You have no access to the coffee machine, because you are not in your own home. Even if he is fully aware of your situation, he can choose to give you a cup of coffee – or just one bean.
All the way through the asylum system, one has to depend on these single coffee beans, until the permission to plant your own garden is given. You have no choice but to wait, and wait.
On the other hand, those who have the right to work, by birth or through other means, can go out and plant their own garden where they can grow their own Emwanyi.
The system renders you powerless. Even if you have the skills of a gardener you are not allowed to exercise them.
I dream of the right to get beyond surviving on benefits, go out to find a job and build an Emwanyi garden of my own.
B is for Big Boots by Dorkusis for Akamwanyi
Big Boots is a noun.
Big Boots means police or immigration officer.
As an asylum applicant or refugee, it feels like there are Big Boots everywhere in the UK – in the reporting centre, the police station, in the detention centre, in the court, on public transport, in the street. Sometime they enter your house. They are everywhere.
We call them Big Boots because they have big power and we can hear their step coming...BOOM...BOOM...BOOM.
Because of my previous experience of Big Boots back in my home country, I see them and I am scared, I want to run.
In my own country, they came to my door and took me so now, whenever I see anyone in uniform I think they are here for me.
I want to trust Big Boots here, really I do.
But while they torture people physically back home, they torture us mentally here...Big Boots.
C is for Croydon by Buba
Croydon is a noun.
To you, Croydon is probably an ordinary place, a town with shops, people, buses. But for me, and almost all asylum applicants, it is different. Just hearing the word 'Croydon' takes you straight back to your asylum interview. It is not a geographic space for me. It is an emotional space.
I had been in the UK for several months before I called the Home Office. I had not contacted them before because I was scared, but I didn't want to hide any more.
That was the first time I heard the word 'Croydon'.
I knew nothing of the interview process before I went there. I found myself outside a tall building, with lots of security at the entrance: I introduced myself and my mission.
Inside, I sat for hours in a big hall, with lots of people milling around, holding number cards. Names were being called, one after the other. At last they called my name, and I came to the counter. I was directed to a room - a cubicle. I faced another counter and behind it a man in uniform with a black frowning face. Because of my experience of torture I felt a panic: I was scared even before the first question.
'When did you arrive in the UK? Where have you been living all this time? Why didn't you seek asylum on your arrival at the airport?'
I told him that when I was smuggled out of my country [Gambia] I arrived here without papers - with nothing. He stopped me in a very abrupt way and said I'd have a full interview later. But he said, 'I've heard what you said, and I think you'd be on fast track.'
I didn't know what that meant. Was I going to be deported?
I was taken to a room at the top of a spiral staircase, with four or five others. Suddenly a man came in and said, 'It's time for us to go.' We walked down the staircase and straight into a car outside the door. I didn't know where we were going and no one would answer my questions. I had an immense sense of panic.
Eventually we arrived at a detention centre.
These Asylum Screening staff need training in how to relate to survivors of torture. It is a matter of respect and dignity.
D is for Damp by Aso – Inadequate Financial Support
Damp is a noun, an adjective, and a state of being
D is for Damp is noun, a verb, a state of mind. I am an asylum seeker. I come from dry land which has a long hot summer, where most of the time the sun is lying in the middle of the sky and burns the earth. I come from a hot land where everything is warm and dry. The air, relationships, hot blood you are but cold freedom. I am asylum seeker; I come from a dry land to here, a damp house and a wet climate, where most of the time the sun sleeps and hides itself in the clouds and the air is always wet. There are frequent showers, damp room, cold relationships, misty features and a lonely walt but hot freedom. There is not much differences outside and inside of my life. Outside is freezing, there is no body to talk to, everyone is in a hurry with his or her life. Inside the house, I stare at damp walls. The air is as cold as my loneliness. The damp hurt my bones, my back and I am always in pain.
Inside of me a war and a bitter past; the images of my friends and family when I left them. Dark memories of personal pain and suffering. I am an asylum seeker, all my life is damp, past and present, physically and mentally.
It's damp inside my brain, as its damp inside my room, therefore I am unenthusiastic about everything: my solicitor, translator, landlord, my neighbours who never like me, my immigration officer, even the postman who never brings me sunshine. But one thing I have heard is that when you get 'leave to remain', the damp starts to run from your wall.
E is for Exile by Grace
Exile is a verb.
It means to feel completely separate from the other people around you. It is a state of mind but you feel it in your whole body.
I get exile when I can't communicate.
When I first came to the UK it was really bad. I was nineteen. I was lost. I couldn't understand any of the signs, or what people advised me to do.
I didn't know where to go, or how to ask for help.
It was suffocating.
I will never forget the day I went to Lunar House and they turned me away. I was desperate for help but nobody understood my language.
Then, like a miracle, I met a woman who spoke French. It was like I could breathe again. Her connection brought me back to life.
Now I go to English classes every day. The weight of exile is easier now. But when it comes, I still feel it.
F is for Feja-feja. by Yamikani Tracy Ndovi
Feja-feja is a noun.
It's a gambling game from my country but also a word we use to describe life in the UK.
Feja-feja is normally played by people who can't afford casinos, in the road or in backyards. They can't even afford a whole pack of cards, so they probably play with four or five. They play in groups of two to four people, with no proper rules - they just make them up. But nobody wants to listen to the other person's suggestions, so there's a lot of arguing.
There were three of us in my first feja-feja game: the immigration officer, the Borders Agency prosecutor, and myself.
In 2000, I came to the UK. I arrived at Heathrow airport, trying to save my life. My face was disfigured by scars, and deformed by injury; I could barely open my mouth to speak. But the UK immigration officer did not give me a chance to explain what had driven me here. I was returned to South Africa.
It was a feja-feja for me to come to the UK again. This time, there were four of us in the game; they brought in an interpreter even though I didn't ask for one. He stacked the odds against me by changing everything I said. I got quite upset about it. So there was a lot of arguing, as usual with this game.
The interpreter got thrown out of the game, and after that things got better. I could speak for myself. I had taken a chance, so it was a win or lose situation. This was Feja-feja, but the stakes were real. And this time I won.
G is for GUESTS by Jade Jackson
Guest is a noun. It refers to a visitor – normally invited, and welcome
I used to stay in a NASS accommodation hostel. Every night, as soon as the lights went off, my guests would come out in their thousands; some came by helicopter, others came crawling, some just sat, lazing around. They owned the hostel, so they were untouchable. One day as I was asleep, one crawled into my ear and the sound of its music woke me up. There was dancing in my ears – he could have given Michael Jackson a run for his Moon walk. The others were laughing and chattering as if they had been drinking at All Bar One the whole night.
I could not take it any more so I ran to my friend's room. "There's a guest in my ear!" I shouted. My friend knew what I was talking about because 'guest' is our slang word for a cockroach. She poured water into my ear to try and flush him out, but the guest stayed put! I ran to the housing provider and shouted at the top of my voice: 'Help! Help! There is a guest in my ear!' The man looked very confused and probably thought I had lost my marbles.
He asked me, 'How can someone get into your flipping ear?' My friends started berating him, telling him that they had repeatedly warned him that there were millions of cockroaches in the hostel, in all our rooms, and that he had done nothing to get rid of them. None of us was going to give him an easy ride.
He swallowed his pride and called an ambulance. Within minutes it arrived and two of my friends went with me to A&E. A nurse asked what was wrong and I told her that there were guests in my right ear. The original dancer seemed to have multiplied, which made me very uneasy.
As I lay on the bed, waiting for these annoying guests to be removed from my ear, I hatched a plan. I would suggest to my friends that we collected these maniac cockroaches and dump them on the housing officer's desk, closing the door behind us so that none could escape. We would see how he reacted then.
H is for Hard Rest by M.F.
Hard rest is a noun.
After my asylum application was rejected, I didn't have any support. Nothing.
I had no financial support, I had no place to sleep, I had no security, I had nothing. Really nothing.
It was then that I learned what a 'Hard Rest' is.
There are two kinds of rest: physical rest and mental rest.
A 'Hard Rest' is a place I find to rest my head.
But it is very different from an 'Easy Rest' – don't get the two confused.
An 'Easy Rest' is when you have your own home – when you go to bed in warmth and comfort. Everything is clean.
A 'Hard Rest' is sleeping rough. When you have to sleep in the cold, or through storms, or in the snow, or in the park, where you have to compete with the foxes.
I have had lots of 'Hard Rests'. Too many.
Sometimes I would have 'Hard Rests' on the night-buses. I would sit upstairs, at the back of the bus, while the bus went round and round. Drunk people would come up to me sometimes. They would bully me and burn my hand with lighters.
I preferred the foxes. They didn't come looking for a fight, or to bully me. They just wanted shelter from the cold, the same as me.
You come from prison where you have no way to defend or protect yourself. I came here expecting peace and a new mind. But you don't find that peace. Many people don't understand how difficult it is to cope with the stress of being alone, not having confidence to let your mind go – not feeling safe. I show the world a smile, to protect myself. But inside it's always this pain.
Today, I have a comfortable warm bed for my body, but no bed for my mind.
When I think of London, I think of 'Hard Rests'.
I IS FOR IMBAHURU by Hasani
Imbahuru is a noun
When people are talking about the Home Office, whether for reporting or for interview, they call it Imbahuru, which, loosely translated, means Big House. The word instills fear in people because of the gruelling marathon interviews, and the reporting office where one might be detained.
Nobody would want to say the word 'Home Office' aloud; it's too terrifying. Even the word Imbahuru is usually spoken in hushed tones. Imbahuru is like hell. It's a stressful place and everyone wants to avoid it but they are forced there by circumstances.
Some people who claim asylum after they're already in this country are 'invited' for a series of interviews. They start saying 'ndiri kuenda kuimbahuru' : 'I'm going to the Home Office'. And this becomes a regular part of their language.
Its impact is psychological and sometimes physical. Psychological in that the black and white uniforms of the officials always bring back memories of suffering at the hands of the state operatives back home; you can't avoid these encounters, Just waiting for your turn is stressful, because you never know when you'll be told, 'Can you please go through that door' – where you might be detained pending deportation.
The physical effects are the painful feet from walking all the way; even when you get there, you find a long queue which you can't jump. Walking alone for a long distance, you feel so lonely. You start thinking, 'Why am I going through this experience?' So by the time you get home you're exhausted and depressed.
In Zimbabwe, Imbahuru means the house where the chief's family lives. It's not a place to be afraid of.
J is for Jungle by Anonymous
Jungle is a noun.
When we say jungle, we are talking about the journey through the asylum system.
As an asylum applicant, every day is a struggle. You have to fight to survive. There are a lot of dangerous animals. A lot of predators – landlords, NASS, police...You are treated like an animal.
Sometimes, it can feel like there is no end to the jungle. No matter how long you stay in the jungle, you cannot see beyond the trees.
The King of the Jungle? The Home Office.
K is for Kidnapping by Buba
Kidnapping is a verb.
When I talk about kidnapping I am talking about being bundled off to a detention centre.
It is the word we use to describe being taken straight from your asylum screening interview to an isolated cell. In my case, I was taken to Harmondsworth.
I was put in a car as if I was a criminal. We drove for two hours. I kept asking them where we are going. All they said was, "We are taking you somewhere for your safety." It reminded me of how, in Gambia, when they took you to prison they said they were taking you to a Five Star Hotel.
My kidnapping in the UK gave me flashbacks. It brought me right back to my torture in the Gambia. It was another form of mental torture all over again.
After my kidnapping I stayed in Harmondsworth for two weeks. I found myself in an unimaginable situation. It was horrible.
It was only when my solicitor referred my case to Freedom from Torture that I was released.
To be honest, even now, when I walk down the street I am scared of another kidnapping.
L is for Limbo by Henry
Limbo is a verb.
When we say limbo we are talking about waiting for a Home Office decision.
We say limbo because you are stuck in uncertainty.
I first heard it used very early on. Everybody uses it.
Hundreds of thousands of people all stuck in limbo. Waiting together, with our hope gone.
It is like treading water – you are working, working, working to survive...but...you stay in the same place.
The waiting is a form of psychological torture.
M is for 'Money to the Ministry' (by Ajanthan)
Giving 'Money to the Ministry' is a verb.
Back home, when you give 'money to the ministry', you don't know where it goes or what it is being used for. Your pocket is empty and you certainly won't see the benefits of handing it over!
Here in the UK, when I give money to my solicitor, I say I am giving 'money to the ministry'.
It feels like money down the toilet. It makes me feel so angry – I do not believe they are helping me, but I have no option, I cannot represent myself!
Without access to good, quality legal aid, the question-mark over my head is still there...Always there, always hanging.
All I can do is hand out 'money to the ministry' and hope for the best.
But I am not hopeful.
N is for Nazdana (by Amin F.)
Nazdana is an adjective.
Where I am from, Nazdana is the word we use to describe someone who has had lots of love, support and sympathy from their family...who then, in a difficult situation, finds it really, really tough. The person us usually young and they see themselves as a child.
I was nazdana when I came to the UK. I was 14. I had never been starving before, everything had been provided for me. I had never been shouted at.
When I first arrived, the police picked me up and took me to the police station. They took fingerprints and a DNA swab, and I thought they were going to help me,
But when they put me in a room, on my own, for more than 36 hours, I was really nazdana. I was so scared.
Now I am not nazdana. I have to look out for myself. I have to sort out all my own support, healthcare, education and housing. If there are problems, I have to deal with it.
I live in Croydon now and I often see young asylum seekers around there. They are all nazdana. I try and help them. Their eyes are full of tears.
Minors should not have to go through the pain of the asylum system.
O is for Only-One-Pound by Konica
Only-one-pound is a noun.
Every asylum seeker will be familiar with this phrase. They don't have any choice,. When you are on asylum support the money the Home Office gives you is not enough. You have to look for the cheapest food – up to one pound. Anything more and you don't buy it. You can't afford it. And it is a question of survival.
But this means you don't have much choice.
My only-one-pound buffet involves rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes and ready-made pizza.
The only protein I get is nearly-expired or expired, meat.
With no nutrition or calories, you feel tired like an old man. You have no energy.
It is embarrassing to eat the cheapest food, so you eat alone.
As a survivor of torture, the reality of only-one pound means you don't have good health and it affects your mind psychologically. You feel too weak to deal with your problems.
P is for Pension by Varun
Pension is a noun.
When we asylum seekers say 'pension' we mean Home Office financial support, or Section 95.
We also call it a pension because it is not enough. We get £36.65 every week. With this little money I have to decide whether to spend it on food, clothes, topping up my phone, things to clean the house, toiletries, medicine and transport to friends, my solicitors and the reporting centre.
I cannot fulfil my basic needs with such a small 'pension'.
I don't feel free.
Give me a work permit, and then I can earn my own money and contribute to society.
Q is for QUEEN'S BOUNTY by Steven
Queen's Bounty is a noun. It refers to something charitable – an elective sustenance.
To me, it is another way of describing Home Office financial support.
When dreams are shattered, life driven to the edge, hopes strained, we find ourselves dependent on public funds: the only choice. Caught in this limbo of destitution, as asylum seekers we are lost, helpless.
In this situation we are depressed; we suffer from lack of self-esteem, and increased anxiety: the result of social discrimination. We are hardly able to find meaning in life.
But a Miracle Mother appears, issuing bounty: vouchers like manna from heaven to bruised souls, like water on a dried-up desert plant which has grown weary.
We cling to this nourishment, all that keeps us from extinction.
Yet we want to be like a tree, planted beside a stream that bears its fruits at the right time and season, and never withers or dies.
R is for Royalty Card by Apple
Royalty Card is a noun.
When your application has been refused but you make a fresh claim, the Home Office gives you an Azure Card, or a Royalty Card as we call it. Every week, they top up my Royalty Card, but it is not enough.
When I use my Royalty Card, I can feel people looking at me. And it is not because I am a Royal. It is because they know I am an asylum seeker.
There is a shame attached to using this card. Sometimes they refuse you, and you have to call the Royalty Card people.
But if you don't have money on your phone, you have to just leave it. You can't use the Royalty Card for your phone. You have no other money. So you are trapped.
You can't buy whatever you want; it is getting more and more restricted.
You can buy pot noodles – but you can't buy soap. You can buy tomato ketchup, but you can't buy stamps. Or socks, or tissues, or a tube fare.
You can't even buy a postcard.
So, that's the sort of Royalty we belong to.
S is for Sivarthri by Lasar
Sivarthri is a verb.
Sivarthri is the name of a Hindu festival in my home country. On this festival, you have to stay awake all night. You are not allowed to go to sleep. Your eyes must not close.
Here in the UK, we use this word to describe what it is like to live in shared Home Office accommodation. Here in the UK, we are forced to share housing with 20 or 30 other people, and sometimes you must even share your own room with one or two others. Even if my room-mate is quiet, the others in the building will keep me awake.
I am already affected by nightmares from my past. But sharing with other people means I rarely, ever, get a full night's sleep. There is always noise – shouting, arguing, crying.
It can feel like they are celebrating Sivarthri every night in shared Home Office accommodation.
I don't know if I can live like this for much more.
The government needs to respect what I, and other survivors of torture, have been through.
We need separate housing and an end to Sivarthri all year round.
T is for Toe-line by Conteh
Toe-line, a verb, is to queue up in a strict way.
In the UK we use toe-line to describe the Home Office Reporting centre queues where you'll find yourself toe-lining a lot once you've applied for asylum, time after time waiting endlessly for the decision. In my country, Sierra Leone, you waited your turn for a life or death decision.
Toe-lining here in London triggers memories of fear and feelings of panic at the checkpoints during our civil war, not knowing whether you'll pass through or be killed. The body signals if you're a marked man: bootlace marks on the legs indicate wearing of military-style boots; an index finger held rigid spells 'trigger finger' and that you're a soldier - or a rebel. Depending on who's holding the checkpoint, you'll be shot.
Or you may stand for toe-lining under a burning sun for UN or USAID relief supplies, following days relying on only salty water and wild food - a few nuts or a bit of fruits. So whatever your age, only the fittest survive.
My worst experience of toeing a line was when an Ecomog (Rebel) jet came screaming overhead and dropped a bomb on a relief food queue.
I survived; my best friend did not.
The Letter U by Katie
To me the letter U should stand for 'Update the system of the British Home Office'.
On one side are asylum seekers, powerless and desperate; on the other side an organization in full control in dealing with an asylum seeker's life. It needs to make a proper connection between these two sides.
This system doesn't take account of the asylum seeker's needs, problems, feelings An asylum seeker needs assurance that they are not forgotten in this country, that the officials are aware of them, even do their minimal best for them. A shame, but the process is the opposite, in one of the most democratic countries in the world!
The 'system' means that asylum seekers from the young to the very old, mostly every week or two weeks, remain for hours in the long queue outside the Reporting Centre building, standing in the road in all weathers, sprayed by traffic, in unsuitable clothing, with no money even to buy a cup of tea.
And this is only the beginning. Your panic starts when you are close to the entrance.
The officials may answer your 'hi', but rarely will they say, how are you? They avoid eye contact, as they can. It can seem they deal with a ghost. After my own experience with them I usually avoid asking any questions.
During one of my reporting sessions, after I'd put my finger on a small scanner and the system updated my information, I asked the lady, "Has anything changed in my process?" She replied in a most rude way that I must ask my solicitor, not her. She said I must complain through my solicitor....
I was shocked. I couldn't understand why she was upset, talking loudly and bringing the other officers' attention towards us. I stood silent, looking at her. At last I said "Thank you", and left the building feeling such strong pain of humiliation.
It is not always as simple as this. Another experience: The reporting procedure was finished, so usually the officer passed my paper to a colleague to give me bus tickets, but this time he didn't. "Can I get my tickets?" I enquired politely. Instantly he reacted badly, looked me in the eye and responded, "No. Who gave it to you, bus ticket?" I answered, "I don't know who, it's long time ago".
"If you want ticket, you must change your reporting to every week".
I asked "Why? Since the beginning it was their decision for me to come every month, and they gave me tickets, and now for two years it's been like this".
He was even more angry: "What do you want, change your reporting or not?" I said "No, thank you", took my paper and left the building.
It didn't finish here. At the next reporting, I asked another officer, "Can I get bus tickets?" He looked at the computer screen and said "I can't give it to you unless you change your reporting". I explained all over again but he said he couldn't do anything, "It is written it was your decision and I can't change it". I didn't even try to explain to him any more. I knew something was wrong, and the best is to be quiet. I'd heard from others, "Never complain to them, they write something against you in the system".
I was now so afraid he'd written something about me, even though I didn't argue with him.
A year passed, with no tickets. One day at my reporting I was at the desk of the same man who'd stopped me from getting the tickets. This time, when everything was finished he looked at me and said: "Do you get the bus tickets?" My heart started beating faster and faster. "No", I said.
He looked at me and said "Why"?
I was shocked but I answered "I don't know why."
He said, "You must get your tickets, I am going to sort it out now. From today every time you come ensure you get two bus tickets, ok?" And he kept looking at me. I responded simply "Ok, I will, thank you".
V is for Va-ashad by Anonymous
V is for Va-ashad. Va-ashad is a noun.
To live in Va-ashad is to live in a state of terror. You shake; you're scared of everything and everyone around you.
When I talk about Va-ashad in the UK I am talking about harassment.
When I first came here, the Home Office told me I had to go to Middlesbrough. They put me in a flat.
I never felt safe. My neighbours broke my windows, shouted at me and threw cigarette butts at me. One day I came home and everything was gone. There was writing on the wall: "If you come back to this house, I'll kill you".
I am never completely free from Va-ashad. I experienced it before, in my country. And when I think how we lived in Middlesbrough, I can't help but return to those memories. The nightmares will not stop. Now, here, in Victoria in London, at least I feel physically safe.
W is for Wings by Alex
Wings is a noun. In Ingala, you say Lipapou.
When you think of wings you might think of birds or an aeroplane. Nice things...
But for me it means something very different. Getting your wings means getting deported. The first time I heard it, I was in detention. My friend was taken early in the morning, at 5 o clock. When we went for breakfast everyone was talking about it:
Where is Fred?
He was taken.
To the airport.
He's probably going to get his wings.
We were so sad. Everyone was thinking about themselves.
I got my wings three months later. Again, they came early. I complied because I knew if I protested I would be beaten. I was so frightened.
When I arrived back in the Congo, my heart was beating...BUMP, BUMP, BUMP...
Even now, when I think about getting my wings, I get frightened.
The fear is always there.
X is for x-ray by Anonymous
X-ray (n): the Asylum Registration Card, a piece of ID that unlocks support
No, it's not Christmas time, when cards and gifts amass at the post office. It's just the day when asylum seekers go for their weekly wages. All the counter assistants are busy counting many bank notes, yet each pile not more than just enough to last an asylum seeker the length of the week.
For an asylum seeker, anything is enough; but try to impose that 'enough' on the legislators who decided it: no way, it'd be a national scandal.
One by one the asylum seekers collect their respective allowances. In the midst of their excitement at receiving a miserable thirty six pounds and a couple of pence, none of the other asylum seekers seems to notice their solo fellow, drenched in tears.
I approached the poor soul to find out what the matter was: all I could hear from him were the repeated words: "My X-ray! My X-ray!" in a very pained tone. "Were the results that bad?" I innocently inquired. Little did I know that I was in the world of asylum seekers and their private language. "I lost my X-ray!" he screamed, even louder. So what about your x-ray? I thought to myself.
All down the line, one by one the asylum seekers checked their "x-rays". It was not until then that I realised the "x-ray" was the Asylum Registration Card (ARC).Without the precious x-ray, you can't collect your meagre allowance.
To all asylum seekers: without your x-rays you won't get your money; guard those silly plastic cards as you would guard your own precious lives.
Y is for Yo-Yo-ing by George
Yo-yo-ing is a verb.
It refers to the period between receiving a positive answer on your asylum claim and getting refugee status, and actually receiving the benefits of this status – for example, employment support allowance or housing benefit.
For most survivors waiting on their asylum application, the idea of refugee status is the Holy Grail. This is the idea that your lawyers give you, the support services give you, the idea that bureaucracy at large gives you.
You are told once you get papers you are entitled to this, to get that. Everyone drums up the myth. But for someone in a vulnerable mental and physical state, it can become a big obstacle.
Before I got my refugee status, I was hanging by a shoestring, dependant on a certain network of friends and a lawyer as a point of contact with the Home Office.
Once I got my papers, that final shoestring also got cut. Because, with the transition, the shoestring goes away and I was yo-yo-ed all over the place. Again, back to square one, trying to source my housing: from Citizens Advice Bureau to other help organisations, to get legal advice, to get my benefits and my housing and all my entitlements into place.
So I was just back and forth, coming here, coming there. It's just a never-ending cycle. Everyone thinks you are sorted, but you're not, you are not sorted.
It took four months to pass the first stumbling block, just to get my foot in the door of the benefits office, let alone dealing with my physical and mental well-being.
All that time I was yo-yo-ed around.
Z is for ZERO by Soraya
I am at Point Zero.
But with every single second, with every spring breeze, at every sunrise, and when the trees begin to bud -
I need to rise up. I need to shine.
Need to leave Zero behind.
* * *
No possessions. No fame.
I am lost. I am lost.
There is a crisis in me.
Point Zero is my only position.
I need to stand up.
I need to be called by my original identity.
* * *
I need to find myself,
even after I have fallen off.
See, I am wriggling.
I won't stay at zero.