Amie comes from a country in West Africa, and has given us permission to share this transcript of her speech:
"I am going to be speaking to you today about destitution.
Destitution is first and foremost a humanitarian issue. People who are destitute are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, and they deserve our compassion and support – a human response, one that seeks to protect them, treat them with dignity, fairness and respect.
Destitution is such a big problem and it’s important that people understand that destitution is created by the Home Office but cannot be ignored by Greater Manchester.
When you become destitute, the first impact is: it affects you mentally and physically and creates depression. You become at risk of violence and sexual exploitation. It makes you lose your dignity, and is like your whole world has collapsed.
I have seen so many people living difficultly, some women don’t have a choice and they end up being with a man / somebody they don’t feel safe to stay with. Some are struggling even with a roof over their head – they don’t have it. Some have to live hand to mouth. Some asylum seekers go do jobs to get cash in order to survive. Destitution is defined as lack of regular access to essential resources and the most importantly, a place to live. All these knock people, not only are they suffering but encounter mental health or psychological well-being problems.
I can take myself as an example. When I became destitute (5 years ago now) I have been through difficulties with my health, and am still going through it. It seems like I have started all my asylum process fresh again. Then I didn’t know the differences between who gets access to the council house – because I was so desperately needing accommodation, I went to the local council for help. I was told I am not entitled for a house and that I am illegal in this country. How does it feel, a person - a woman - seeking help was turned down because of her status in this country? These creates great stress in you that you don’t know who to face to tell your problem to. That same stress and fear makes you not to go for signing to reporting centres, because you fear that you may be detained. You become sad and lonely, I have seen people who absconded from the system because of this.
I can’t thank Boaz Trust enough honestly, without them I won’t be where I am today – I came across Boaz through WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together), which I am a proud member of as part of their management committee. Thank you Boaz for giving me a roof over my head, thank you for your continuing support and care through your service, and thank you for believing in me and for giving me this opportunity to be on this platform today.
So on that note, I am pleading each and every one of you not just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of this room – please make a note of today's speeches. You wouldn’t feel this pain of being destitute until you become one.
We want our voices to be heard, we need justice in every way and we need changes from all the Greater Manchester authorities and organisations. Thank you."