‘When I was ten, I was living in Sulaymaniyah, a wonderful historic city and a centre of traditional Kurdish culture. It’s in Iraqi Kurdistan, a mountainous part of northern Iraq that has been fighting for years to become independent.
There was a lot of fighting, and both my parents were killed in an explosion, which also left me almost completely deaf in both ears.
It’s a long story which I won’t tell here, but I managed to get to the UK, to Southampton, and I put in a claim for asylum.
Unfortunately, my claim was refused, as so many are. In December 2011 I got in touch with SWVG, and they helped me in so many ways – to find a solicitor to help me put in a fresh claim, to get to medical appointments for my hearing, and to pay for some essential personal items.
I also started helping out in the kitchen at our refugee drop-in centre at Avenue St Andrews, which I really enjoyed.
Unfortunately, by 2013, it was clear I was not going to get refugee status and leave to remain in the UK. So SWVG helped me put in an application for Assisted Voluntary Return to the Home Office, which involved being finger-printed and photographed, and working out what help I could get back home in Sulaymaniyah.
In June that year, SWVG came with me to Heathrow airport where a worker from Refugee Action met me. I and six other Kurds I was travelling with were each given £500 to get started back home. So SWVG saw me through the whole thing. I am so grateful to them.’