Patrick, a Journalist from the Democratic Republic, tells his story –
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo I was a journalist. I worked for a news channel, so if there was a conference or event somewhere they would send me to go and cover what had happened. I had in my mind to focus on politics but I didn’t have time to finish my training.
I arrived by plane in 2018 on a visa for six months. My dad told me to go to London and observe what the political situation is in my country, if it doesn’t change, then claim asylum. My reason for coming to England is something I don’t like to speak about. It is the very darkest part of my life.
Claiming asylum wasn’t simple. It was a stressful situation. I had to explain many things. They ask me questions, then the same questions, if the answer is not clear, they say: ‘No you are lying’. They ask you the same question in different ways. It was not easy at all. The first time they rejected my case. They said that the channel I was working for was closed. I said, no no, it was open. There were two channels run by the same person, my channel was open, the other one was closed. I had to get evidence and make an appeal.
This is what it feels like waiting to hear the decision: it is like you go into a long tunnel and it is dark and you don’t know how long the tunnel is. It can be like two days, or it can be many weeks, and it is not dependent on you. It depends on someone else. You have to not think about it. There are good things to do, this is how you have to think. You try to learn English. You try to start to make your life here.
Islington Centre helped me a lot during that time, it was very good. It helped me to learn English and to go to college. Before Covid we went on trips, went to museums, to gardens, we learned gardening. At the Centre I made friends, not only from my country, now I have friends from many different countries. When I am in Islington I don’t feel stressed, I feel good and if anyone is new, or wants to learn English I would tell them: ‘Go there, it is a good place.’
One of the best things at the Islington Centre was when they had special sessions for people who have their status. There was a lawyer who was explaining to us how to live in London, how to bring your wife, kids to come to this country. They give information about the reunification of the family.
This was important for me because my brother passed away in 2015 and I am taking care of his children. They are my boys now. The youngest one is six, and the oldest is eight. Their parents died in an accident, they were traveling outside of Kinshasa to the countryside. The kid who is six, when his mum passed away he was only six months, he calls my girlfriend ‘mum’ now. My girlfriend looks after them with my mum in my country. I miss them a lot and I would like to bring them here to the UK.
I got refugee status in December 2019 and now I am allowed to work. I have found a cleaning job in a gym. I work 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm, five days a week. It is hard. Sometimes when people come they leave everything everywhere and you have to put everything in the correct place, make sure that the toilet, showers, everything is clean. This is what I’m doing. I am tired every day, but I don’t care about that. I need to raise money.
My dream is to bring my boys here. I want to be like a family. To give them everything they want and be a real family. I also want to find a job, a writing job. I miss journalism a lot. I would like to do it here, but my English is not quite good yet.
If I could say one thing to people to understand what it is like to be a refugee, I would tell them England is not my home, but I am trying to live like it is my home. This is how it is, you have to make your life again. I love to live in the UK because it gave me an opportunity to rebuild my life when in my country everything went wrong.