Finding a home from home

Refugees wire

A young Rameldas Farkout escaped persecution in his native Iraq and came to Glasgow. He tells others never to give up hope 

25th September 2017 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

If the traffickers were to be believed, the UK was a mystical land of plenty. The journey through Europe would be straightforward, they assured, and once in the UK they promised both work and accommodation would be waiting.

The reality could not have been any more different. At various points during the two-week ordeal, Rameldas and eight others who had been crammed into the back of a van, never expected to see the light of day again. “We were told not to move, not to talk,” he said. “We were given occasional food and water through a hatch. I never expected to survive.”

Eventually Rameldas came to Dover, emaciated but intact. An older man was not so lucky and died one week into the journey. Unceremoniously the van was stopped and his body dumped on a roadside - just another dead asylum seeker.

  and journeyed north to Cumbria before settling in Glasgow. A spell in Dungavel Detention Centre followed before the Home Office surprisingly granted Rameldas leave to stay in the UK. 

That was seven years ago and since then the Syrian-born Iraqi national has found work as a civil servant in Glasgow, got married and bought a house.

“Most of all I was grateful to have survived,” he said. “I heard many didn’t. The traffickers don’t care for human life. They are all about money. But I had no option: as a Christian I was told by local militants I had 24hrs to leave. Or I’d be killed.”

The congregation of Shawlands Parish Church supported Rameldas in those early days and in return he spent the next two years supporting local voluntary initiatives in the Shawlands area.

It enabled him to develop his English as well as meet many new friends and contacts.

“People were fantastic,” he says fondly. “I didn’t see barriers; just opportunities. When I wasn’t allowed to work I volunteered in the community, supporting anything from gardening projects to mentoring other refugees who had newly arrived in Glasgow. Despite many coming from Africa and eastern Europe we could relate because we all had the same experience.”

Support in Scotland’s largest city is good says Rameldas but he warns charities and support groups need more government help. 

There is no shortage of people like me who want to contribute to their local community

“There is no shortage of people like me who want to contribute to their local community,” he says. “Studies show refugees are more willing to take part in volunteering because of their background. But the networks are struggling. It’s difficult to provide often vital support entirely through charity and volunteers.”

Shona Watson, who was deacon of the Shawland’s Church and who offered initial support to Rameldas, agrees. “Local people will always respond and support those in need but it’s not enough,” she says. “Refugees and asylum seekers coming to this country under the most awful conditions often require intensive support. They have seen trauma, death, left their families behind and then face discrimination here. That level of support is lacking.”

The best support comes from those who have experience of seeking asylum in the UK, Rameldas says. It can also be inspiring.  

“When you see others who have arrived without hope and now they have families and jobs and have created a new life you realise it is possible and that opportunity exists.

“It wasn’t that long ago I had nothing but crucially I never became disheartened. I always believed opportunity would come my way. And it did.”

Comments

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27th September 2017 by Angus McKay

Rameldas Farkout entered the UK illegally, he passed through other countries to get his all free asylum package. The UK taxpayers had to pick up the expense of providing for him. To carry on risking your life to get to the UK after having reached a safe country negates any asylum claim. It proves that the over-riding aim is not safety, since that had already been achieved, but to get to this country. Therefore all those who have done this should be deported without appeal as bogus claims. It’s theft by deception.