"In 2014, I came to the UK to ask for protection because in my country I was arrested and they wanted to kill me. I fled my country to come here for protection. I wasn’t prepared, I had to run.
I came for protection but, for me it is like double torture. In my home country I was tortured, and now again in the UK it has been more torture – even now, because I don’t have that protection. Last year, everything stopped - no support, no money, nothing since I have been refused.
Since I have been in the UK I’ve had mental health problems and taken medication for depression, and I’ve had sessions with a psychologist. When I received the refusal letter, it made me go down further. I was very depressed at that time. I didn’t know what I could do, because after I was refused, the accommodation stopped as well. I had nothing to eat, and I was very depressed.
It is worse for a woman to be homeless, than a man. You have no security and you are very vulnerable. Something can happen to you at any time because you are a woman. I have heard stories from people who say that when there is no security women can be raped or sexually exploited. Men say that they can help you, but then you go and in the night it is not safe.
One night, I had to sleep in a bus station. But then I came to Boaz. I am a survivor. Boaz house is my therapy. I found friends in Boaz houses. Boaz activities help de-stress me, for example conversation club helped me with my English, and going out on trips makes me feel good. Having a bus ticket helps me so much – it helps me travel to see my lawyer, go to medical and psychological appointments and helps me to visit different places in Manchester. Boaz are also helping me with my case for asylum.
Life without Boaz would be like madness. I would be very down, desperate and depressed. I would have lots of sickness. Having a case worker at Boaz is important, and it is important that it is a woman so that I can be very, very open. If it was a man it can bring back bad memories.
I hope that one day the Home Office will believe me and they will agree that what I am saying is true. In the future, when I work, I want to help people. Not just asylum seekers, anybody.
My experience of Greater Manchester being welcoming is bad and good. There were bad times when I was living in my first house in the UK, and there are lots of bad memories. In this first house in Greater Manchester my asylum was refused and support was stopped. College was stopped, and psychological support was stopped. I felt very closed and depressed. I had no friends and I didn’t know where to go to pass the time, and where to meet new people.
After this, I came to Manchester city and moved to a Boaz house. Until now, my asylum case is not resolved, I am still in part of the process. This process is scary as I have been refused before, but Manchester is welcoming to me. Since being in Manchester, I feel I am a survivor. Manchester is a friendly city, and I have met so many people around me – in Boaz, and across Manchester. I’ve found some friends.
In Manchester, since being at the GP, medical professionals have welcomed me and helped me. Mental health professionals have made me feel welcome, and some other groups too that I didn’t know in Manchester. Before, it was like a prison, but Manchester makes me feel like I’ve woken up. It feels like a weight is slowly being lifted from me – but not all of it, as I still don’t have refugee status. In Manchester I am involved with lots of different groups, with a lot of asylum seekers and refugees. I don’t have many British friends but people on the bus are friendly and will make sure you have a seat on the bus, the driver says hello. When you are queuing, people let you go before them if it is your turn. Most people in Manchester are friendly. In my street, people say hello when you walk past. But some are not friendly –one person was very racist, and shouted at me in the Arndale recently.
There are so many people in Manchester, especially when in Piccadilly when it is sunny outside. But Manchester is raining too much.
For being a welcoming city, Manchester is 8/10. To be more welcoming, people need to open their eyes. Everyone on the bus, or outside, is busy looking on the phone. They are walking outside and always looking on their phone because they have the internet. Or, they have their headphones in. If I have a problem, they wouldn’t see because they are too busy looking down. So many people go around like they have their eyes closed – if I fall or have a problem, they wouldn’t see to help me.
I feel like Manchester is my home, and I hope I never have to move too far away. It is my life. Manchester has changed me –it has made me open, and I see people. And people here have changed me by how they are with me and the way they treat me."
Victoria stayed with us and eventually was able to submit a fresh claim to the Home Office. She moved on from Boaz into asylum support accommodation while she waited for the Home Office to make a decision. In January 2019 Victoria called us to let us know that she had finally been granted refugee status!
You can read more about Passion Art and Be Welcome by clicking here.