‘When I first made my asylum application, I was completely unsure of how long the process would take, what it entailed and what the final outcome would be. At that stage I had not sought any legal advice and the only help I’d had was from a social worker in the city where I’d stayed when I first arrived in the UK. He’d advised me to make the asylum application, but it was only after a friend advised me to contact a lawyer and put me in touch with SWLLC that I got a better understanding of the asylum process and the importance of taking legal advice.‘
Maryam* grew up in Pakistan. From the age of 15 she was forced to work as a ‘dancing girl’ and when she was 18 years old, she was sold to be married to an older man. She found herself trapped in an abusive marriage, suffering domestic violence and living in constant fear of her husband’s threats to reveal her former life to their children and discredit her within her community. After suffering abuse for 17 years, she finally managed to flee Pakistan and come to the UK with her children.
Reluctant to disclose her full background, Maryam was originally refused asylum by the Home Office. The Law Centre was able to take on her case and she was eventually able to confide in one of our immigration solicitors – the first person and the first professional she had been able to tell her whole story to. As a result, she made late disclosures and, with the Law Centre’s support, was excused by the judge from giving live evidence at the hearing due to her mental health problems.
Her asylum appeal took place over a remote video link. She won the appeal and was granted leave to remain in the UK.
‘When I first heard the outcome of my appeal, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My life had been on hold for almost three years and I was living through a period of total uncertainty, not knowing what the future held for me and my children. I got a phone call from my friend who asked me to sit down and then told me the good news. It was quite overwhelming at first and it took me a few days to fully comprehend what a huge difference this could now make to my life. I still feel quite emotional at times but I am feeling more and more positive about life with each passing day.
‘I finally have an opportunity to rebuild my life in the UK and also to provide my children with the stability they have not had for many years. They can now focus fully on their education and I myself intend to go to college and learn English so I can start making a positive contribution to the society that has given me this opportunity. I also feel that not having the fear of being sent back to a country where I would never have felt safe will help me overcome some of my mental health issues.
‘I am thankful to Rajitha and SWLLC for providing me with the legal help and support that I so desperately needed to get me to this final and positive outcome. I have been kept very well informed with each stage of the process and even when my asylum application was initially refused, Rajitha was very reassuring and helped me to stay calm while we went through the appeal. Thank you Rajitha and SWLLC!’
*not her real name