My name is Tapiwa. I am a single father of two daughters and we arrived in the UK in August 2003. I had no idea that I would be prohibited from working for the upkeep of my family. It seemed so strange I was told that I would be given money from the state every week, instead of being allowed to work.
After a few weeks of this money, it became clear to me that the amount of money I was receiving was calculated to allow me to simply stay alive while the Home secretary decided whether or not to grant us leave to remain. I called it “Breathing Money”. It was enough to keep us breathing and not much else.
It was hard living on NASS support with two children, seeing we had to pay for most other things just like anyone else. We had to buy school uniforms, shoes, clothes and pay for school trips among other things.
It became clear soon enough that we were not wanted in this country and it was clear to my children’s school friends that my children were second class non-citizens of this country. It was an embarrassing and humiliating five years for us as a family. We couldn’t afford enough food, even going without on some occasions, let alone the things young people demand as they grow up and see other children having. We became the experts on buy-one-get-one free offers. We had no choice. I couldn’t understand why a skilled industrial worker like me would be barred from using my trade skills to fend for myself and my children and pay taxes as well.
To hear that NASS intends to cut the support given to asylum seekers to below current levels is unthinkable. They might as well build a tin shack refugee camp somewhere in the UK and hand out relief food and tents from there. I certainly wouldn’t have coped. I was so stressed during my time as an asylum seeker. While I am grateful to the UK for giving my family safety from the regime in Zimbabwe, I dread to think how those single parents still in the asylum system are coping now, and when further cuts to support are affected.
Tapiwa now has refugee status, and is studying for his citizenship test.
Posted by Sara Ayech