It’s Just Not Right! By Julie Kelly

Recently a woman complained to me about ‘how terrible it is to see homeless War veterans here in the UK without any means of support, when people who are coming from other countries to seek asylum are being accommodated in luxury hotels.’
This comment really hits hard, How can someone make such a judgement? I thought to myself.
After giving it a lot of thought, I realised how easy it is to be misled especially amidst all the government propaganda and media hype and of course in light of all the things that have been happening in relation to Isis.
My response was one of directness yet with compassion, obviously this lady had never met an asylum seeker. “Please join me for a coffee “I said, I would really like to talk to you.”

At first the woman was obviously suspicious about my invitation, here in the UK we are not known for being social people but eventually she agreed and we sat drinking coffee and chatting.
Just as I had thought, this lady had indeed never met anyone who was seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, but she was sick and tired of hearing in the news about people being ‘put up’ in expensive hotels whilst our own British soldiers were being left homeless & destitute.
Not only was she angry about this, but also about the fact that asylum seekers were taking all our houses and our jobs, leaving British families penniless.
For almost 2 hrs we sat chatting and I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and compassion for this woman who obviously knew very little truth about what she was saying.
Once she had finished her rant about the injustices of the world which she was entitled to do, I gave the following response…
“For the past 20 years I have worked as a social worker mainly with people who are suffering addictions. Purely by accident one day I came across someone who was seeking asylum in the UK. Alongside having suffered the most unimaginable torture in his country, he was now homeless and destitute in the UK. What horrified me even more, was that unlike the majority of British homeless people, this man was not entitled to housing, not entitled to employment, not entitled to claim government benefits and only entitled to the most basic of healthcare. Up until this particular day, I had never met another human being who was so restricted in his access to the most basic of things and it shocked me to my core.
Working with people seeking asylum, had never been my chosen path in social work, in fact it was the farthest thing from my mind, but seeing this man in my office on that day changed the path of my life forever.
Naturally one might wonder, how without an entitlement to employment, benefits or housing, any human would be expected to survive without committing crime. The reality is, that most asylum seekers ‘with a few exceptions’ choose to work illegally as a crime rather than mug old ladies in the street etc. i’m not sure why this is, but in reality, many Middle Eastern countries do not have a benefits system and so if you do not work, you simply do not eat.
Meeting this man on that day, redirected my path and I began to develop expertise in this area. Having done so, I can honestly say that in 20+ Years, never once have I seen anyone being accommodated in a luxurious hotel, it simply would not happen.”
My coffee partner listened intently but doubtfully as I carried on, “But back to your original statement I said. Yes it’s horrendous that people who have fought in countries such as Iran, Iraq & Afghanistan are subjected to such horrible and degrading treatments when they return. In fact Article 3 of the human Rights act 1998 Prohibits this very treatment of any individual but let’s not forget, that whether someone is a British soldier returning from the Middle East or an asylum seeker fleeing his country in fear of his life, both are the products or the victims of war. Both have witnessed the kind of horrific scenes, or endured traumatising events that the average person could only ever imagine. The effects are likely to remain with them for the rest of their lives whether or not they live their days out naturally Or commit suicide as many war veterans have done.
Trauma I have found, does not differentiate between culture, colour, religion or social status. In reality, it doesn’t care whether you were born in England Or whether you were not, the effects are debilitating.
Yes it is despicable to see British soldiers left in this situation, but it’s not the fault of the person seeking asylum that the British government do not put resources into supporting British soldiers. In all honesty I told her, there are no heroes in war that’s what I believe anyway, only traumatised people and the dead, and the logic of fighting for peace has always confused me”
Eventually we finished our coffee and parted ways. This had been a very interesting day and one which will stick with me for the rest of my life.

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