Last week the police brought Taha (not his real name) came in to see us. He has been homeless on our streets for years and had no shoes and had little English; his feet were blistered, bleeding and swollen. The Rough Sleeper Outreach team had sensibly suggested we get involved. This is because Taha has no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Most of the time, in a situation like this, we can help. We spoke with Taha through Language Line interpreters and pieced together his history.
Arriving here in 2012 he claimed asylum. Taha is from a country where it is very dangerous and from where many of our clients have fled. You might think he would have some English language by now. However, the first four years he spent were in a very isolated house in the North with no access to classes and no money to get to nearby colleges, no WIFI nor phone. As we spoke, we realised he was only 29 years old. He looked at least 45.
After his asylum cases failed, Taha was expecting to be removed from the country. But he has no national passport or any papers with him – it’s hard to keep hold of things when you are homeless. Now he has no longer any right to appeal the decision on his asylum claim (Appeal Rights Exhausted, or ARE). He cannot make a new claim unless he has significant new information about why he cannot return to his home country.
“This system is so flawed and cruel. But your donations gave Taha shoes, food and a phone, which he was extremely grateful for.”
In the course of our meeting it was clear his mental health was poor. As we spoke he ate every one of the snack bars we have on the table for clients. A colleague made him some noodles which were also wolfed down. He drank and drank. We found him some trainers and a volunteer had spare clean sports socks which he gave him. We also got a new SIM card for a donated phone so we can stay in touch if Taha can find somewhere to charge the phone.
We discussed his options. He has no solicitor and we are currently struggling to find legal aid solicitors for new cases, let alone more complex old cases. Police records reveal he has been arrested for vagrancy several times. The police have fed him, given him a cell for a night and had to release him. Each time they have contacted the Home Office who have not detained him or given him any options.
It seems so cruel to tell a suffering human being that he has no right to stay here in the UK, and that he cannot access accommodation or benefits or work. He asked what the chances were of him getting back to his home country now – as the UK has become more of a hell than almost certain death. We called voluntary returns at the Home Office. They said they could send him back in a few weeks but he needs a valid passport. He does not have one. He has never had one. He will not be able to get one. The Home Office cannot help him get one.
What happens now?
We will stay in touch with Taha. A mental health appointment is months away but we will refer him. It is hard as neither he, nor we, know where he will be then. And we will ask the asylum team to tell us how much chance he has of accommodation. Without any papers: very little. This system is so flawed and so cruel. But your donations gave Taha shoes, food and a phone, which he was extremely grateful for. We can at least wrap ourselves around him as a community and hope that while we do that another avenue opens up.
If you’d like to help us supporting refugees in Essex please visit our donate page here.