A Refugee’s Tale: They Gave Me Asylum – And Then Made Me Homeless

In Europe, once you get asylum, it meant that you become homeless
When harsh realities shattered refugee’s idealized expectations of life in Europe. A refugee from Eritrea spent days sleeping rough in a shopping centre after falling through the cracks of the benefits system. (Photo: Sarah Lee / The Guardian)


When Nasir [a pseudonym] was given refugee status in the UK, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Asylum meant he was safe from being returned to a grim future in his home country of Eritrea. But it also meant he would rapidly become homeless.

While his case was being considered he was housed in cramped quarters in Stratford, east London, and given support payments of £36.95 a week. But as soon as people are given refugee status, they are expected to apply for mainstream benefits and find somewhere to live within 28 days.

“When you are granted asylum they say ‘pack’ and you don’t know where to go,” Nasir, 28, says. “You don’t know the system and you are expected to find a job. You get the papers but you don’t know what to do.”

For Nasir, being granted asylum meant ending up homeless. He had nowhere to go, so spent a week sleeping rough at a shopping centre. “This area is not very safe. People do lots of drugs and play music all night. I would take a nap at maybe 2am and then wake up at 6am. I had a cardboard box that I would lie on and one bag. I didn’t expect to come here and sleep on the street. There were times when I thought I would be better off back at home as at least there I had my family,” he says.

Nasir eventually went to the Refugee Council for help. During the 28-day period, refugees are expected to open a bank account and get mainstream benefits, but because Nasir was not given a national insurance number the jobcentre would not process his application for jobseeker’s allowance.

“I didn’t have a bank account because they told me I could not get one without proof of address,” he said. “I went to the jobcentre and asked for help and they said: ‘There is the computer. Go and look for jobs.’ You say: ‘I don’t know how to search,’ and they say: ‘The door is open so you can leave.’”

The Refugee Council helped Nasir, who is learning English, into a winter night shelter and to access the benefits system. He is living in a hostel but had to wait two and a half months for a space. “I am happier now but there have been difficult times along the way,” he says.

“The situation back home is not safe, so it is difficult – it won’t change or become peaceful. So you choose to leave and the journey is very hard and you come here and think: ‘This is it.’ But life here is difficult too,” he says, clutching his hands together.

Does he have a message for the government? He looks up and pauses before responding. “When we first arrived they welcomed us; but it’s very important, when you get status, that people are directed to what to do next. The government should at least give you somewhere to stay and say: ‘You need to do this, this and this,’ because what happens is people who are new and don’t know the country [are] told to leave [their] accommodation. People make mistakes; they don’t know which way to turn.”

73 thoughts on “A Refugee’s Tale: They Gave Me Asylum – And Then Made Me Homeless

  1. I have seen many Eritrean migrants feel offended by the latest ተባዕታይ ደርፊ “Aytitehamel ኣይትተሃመል” music? But isn’t that the whole truth? [it applies to myself too …. of course] … ኣይትሃመልናን …. ኣይንህመልን ኢና ….

    ፈታው ነብሱ ረብሓ ዘስዳዓካ፡
    ብምሕጻብ ብያቲ ተወዲኡ’ጽፋርካ፡
    ስሚንቶ ትውልውል ስራሕ ተቐየርካ፡
    ብምኹስታር ጽርግያ ጎቢጡ ሕቖኻ፡
    ምሕጻብ ሽቓቕ ኮይኑ ሞያኻ፡፡

    ማአስ ንጎቦታት ሳሕል ነይሩ እቲ ንቅሎ፡
    ማአስ ንመረብ ሰቲት ነይሩ እቲ ንቕሎ፡
    ማአስ ንዓልቴና መረብ ነይሩ እቲ ንቕሎ፡
    ንምህጣር ጁባ እዩ ነይሩ ጉዕዞና ጥራይ ንቀበሎ።
    ፈታው ነብሱ ማአስ በዚሑና፡
    ንረብሓ ክንበል ሃገርና ዝራሕራሕና፡
    ክንቅውዕ ዝወጻእና ዓውለማ የዕዊሩና።

  2. ቴንዳ-ሓደር
    ሙቹእ ሂወት ከሐልፍ ኣሚኑ
    ዝራሕረሐ ገዝኡ ሃገሩ
    ትምኒት ማዕዶ ከም ግመ በኒኑ
    ተዋሪዱ ግዳም ሓደር ኮይኑ

    ህሩፍ ጸባ ወዲቑ ኣብ ጸበባ
    ኣማሪሩ ተሪርዎ ናብራ
    ዓለም ጨካን ኣብ ዓሎቕ ኣድሂባ
    ቴንዳ-ሓደር ኣይረኸበን ራህዋ

    ሕሰም ጸበብኡ ሰማዒ ሲኢኑ
    ንሰንፈላል ሂወት ተፈሪዱ
    ክልተሳዕ ወጽዓ ዕድሉ ባኺኑ
    ገርሂ ልቡ ተሪፉ ዓዊኑ

    ኦባማ ኣውሮጳ ኢዶም ኣይስኣኑ
    ሰሚዕናዮም ብሰብ ክባጭዉ
    ካራ ልቦም “ናስር” ምስክሩ

    1. Nasir said, “there was a time he feels he would be better off staying with his family back home”, he doesn’t realize indirectly he is telling them he has no problem going back home in Eritrea. These people can’t read between the lines. It just remind me of one Eritrean guy they interviewed on skynews about two years ago, he told them on camera how he came through Libya, then when he was asked how he find it living in UK, he answered by saying, “your country is not what I expected it to be”. The interviewer and the
      news reader both angry, and said “this individual is not genuine and have no problem going back to his country, and said “He was expecting milk and honey” you probably find it on Google search. What surprises me is most of them don’t even know how to talk.

  3. “Nasir” is a perfect lesson to other future economic refugee wannabees. You are better-off building your country along with your people than looking for handouts.

    1. Here we go again, let’s catch up from where we left off.. Shall we?
      Ata B.Adal hawey.. Are you not a refugee yourself? We all left our country to better our lives.. Why is it different when it comes to the others?
      Why did you leave your country? Answer me please. The question is very relevant to your comments, before you go on the defensive.

      1. Those left during Eritrea occupation by enemies and those after independence are two type of individual. I don’t think you need to be rocket scientist to figure it out the difference. Unless of course you are stupid like those endowed IQ63 folks.

        1. That’s even worse!! You left the country before independence, that means you have not contributed diddly-squat. How dare you accuse those who were there when Agame launched three offensives against our country. 90% of the recent comers did service our country, but left because they want to live like you and I… FYI, I left my country in 1985.

          1. Well now you are too close to be like dedebit graduate. Eritreans independent struggles have so many wings. If you think those who work and contribute much needed cash money to the struggle were Eritreans migrants who used to work up to theee jobs. Well as I suspect you are indeed have lack of our very own Eritreans struggle. Hope you will read and understand before you came here and mewerezayyy.

          2. None sense! How can you compaire endless service with your life to material/money contribution..? You really are illiterate dedebit!! I bet you don’t even pay your 2%.

          3. You’re all over with this topic. Let’s us just focus with the issue brother Nassir is facing, a real issue many are facing but not getting the attention to. Anyhow, Nassir either needs to get help from Eritreans to get through this difficult time or return home (that’s if things don’t work out for him in UK). The second is option very real one, unless is a wanted criminal back home.

          4. You see how stupid you are? you left the country in 1985, while the whole country youth were fighting the enemy. When the slogan was” Lomi zeyketet bedewu kemzmet”and here you are talking about who serve longer. Hadami.These youth(Tegadelti) still serving the country we call Eritrea for fifty plus years. They are still building the country just for future generation. The difference between now and then is, now most of the youth leave the country just like you looking for a better life. Also you idiot mentioned about 2%. We know most people like you pay 2% just to get something from the government that is all. Please take your garbage where it belong.

          5. I am just like you who has not contributed much, However, recognising my failings, I criticise myself before criticising our youth, who are stack between rock and hard surface..BTW its irrelevant, but I was 8 years of age in 1985.

          6. “I am just like you” What kind of Donkoro are you? I don’t brag or won’t say I did this or that. That is not Eritrean nature. The way you present yourself and the way your argument put seem that you have done a lot to Eritrea. At least I do appreciate what PFDJ is doing to change the life of an ordinary people. I saw the progress on the ground. I have seen also people like you who sell their sole to highest price they can get. For instance, like Nasir. The problem is we have one to many hard headed and weak Youth who can’t even fight the hard life of the west.

          7. Mike don’t take for grant he’s Eritrean, he may not. rather the question to him/her would be: yemelketeka/ki diu? wedi/gual tegray enteqonka/ki RAUS/FORA/OUT from here mbal terah iya..

          8. Guess from your comments, “fed up” pays his 2% and more you hesitate to pay or you feel forced to do it when you pay it (considering you’re an Eritrean) “Erena”. Am i wrong?

          9. Actually I pay more than that. I was a whim boy from the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Went and became man inside Sawa. I remember back then before worar woyane. we were the first couple round. Sawa wasn’t as luxury as today: no library, school, clean water and housing lol. We used to sleep inside grass hut. Well if happened rain, we got socked from to to bottom hahaha if the gust wind was hard, our huts gone and we had to rebuild another one for next day. Well woyane worar came after couples round: I fought in tsorona for the first time in my life. I lost so many friends and families. I saw their corpse, I buried so many the finest Eritreans. I don’t why I am still here…sometimes I wish I was amongst of those heroes. Living makes me feel lesser. You are right , I am selfish not being there but I didn’t ran like many selfish and I am always ready to go if any war erupted and die with glory. I know there are hundreds of thousands finest unselfish Eritreans still out there; defending the dearly, our home, Eritrea. Europe or North America are not built by the people ran away. The wester civilization gone through lots of up and down. We don’t chose to continue on endless conscripts, but the circumstances does. Instead of seeking to eat someone’s sweat; loaf of bread we should proudly make our own from the scratch and live and die proud. Being homeless, unwanted and cheap human being is totally UNERITREAN. My friend If my routes were like those ill advised brother and sisters, I would kill my self first.
            I am stunt advocate of more than 2% for development. 2% is embarrassingly low. Eritrea worth more!! Eritrea is diamond. Only those bright know this well.

          10. This is interesting. You turned this important issue of migration into a silly personal discussion. Why???? Forgive me but by my own count this is a 2nd time that I see you instigate a fight with BAdal. Here is my two cent advice: If you see certain comments you disagree with, try to help them understand your point of view without diverting from the topic. اتمنى لك يوما طيبا Cheers!

          11. ~
            ኣንታ ብጻይ ዓጻጽድ! – – –

            እቲ ኣብ ንዮ! – – – ገለ ድፋዓተ – “ነፍጠኛታት” እውን፣ ነዊሕ ብረት ከየድልዮ፣ ንእልፊ ሎቛምጸ-ለዛየመዛያት፣ ብቝንቡልኡ እና ፈንጃጀረ፣ ሓመድ ስለ ዘስሕኖም ጠሰስ ዘብለኒ ጠሓሕሻ Fed_Up ደዀን ትዀነለይ፧

            እንተ ዘይኰንካ’ውን ብዘየገድስ፣ – – – ሓራም ክንድኡን ዳርግኡን ዘረሳረስካኒ።

            ገዳዩ ውዴ! – – – በየኣነፈነፉበት ፈንግላቸው ጃል!

      2. Erena,
        Why are you trying to use personal examples to make your point? If you want to use a specific example, every Eritrean will be exactly like Erena. Not every Eritrean will be Tegadalay, Warsay, Scientist, business owner, farmer, etc/etc. What we need to realize is how we can help (whatever way) every young Eritrean so they take a wise decision for their future. I believe every Eritrean should have the right to do whatever he wants with his life, if and only if some conditions are met. These conditions are generally understood to mean serving your country for some reasonable time. Now, let us “assume” this guy called “Nasir” is first! –Eritrean and … has completed the minimum requirement by PFDJ.

        Nasir has the right to go wherever he desires. I understand there is always a risk even to simple decisions, however, what I hope Nasir will do is to do his homework before he decides to leave Eritrea illegally, know what is waiting for him and the chances of him getting successful.

        Your questions regarding B.Adal are NOT relevant to how I left Eritrea. But to satisfy your desire, I will tell you a little bit about myself, while I hope you will never ask me any personal questions again 🙂
        I was never a refugee and even refused illegal methods to obtain my residency status — I hope you are not Sad :-)..

        1. “I was never a refugee and even refused illegal methods to obtain my residency status
          — I hope you are not too Sad :-)..”

          Come on you can do better!

          1. Hey buddy if you are not gonna be part of the solution then get lost stop trying to derail the conversation of HUMAN TRAFFICKING. This has nothing to do with people looking for a better life no one is in contention with that. So please get off your high horse and stop trying to act like you care more for Eritreans than ERITREANS.

          2. The solution will come when you and your likes visit Eritrea and see for themselves and judge! Seeing is believing.. I go to Asmara almost every year, and each year is worse than the one before. Go there, see if you can actually experience the life they live for one month. I am sure you would not judge this youngsters after that.

          3. obviously, have you ever heard of an economic block. the economic block is doing its job in harming the Eritrean economy and influencing Eritrea’s youth to search for opportunity elsewhere. The problem is that Eritrean youth have a “rosy” picture of the same western countries imposing this nefarious block. When they end up in those western nations that pretend to be humanitarians they are not helped, they are ignored and only find opportunity in the labor class with very little agency. The communities they end up in are completely devoid of the heritage, principals, and culture that they were accustomed to when they were in Eritrea. After they reach these nations they are not as productive as they thought they were going to be, and there youthful energy ends up wasted on nations that do not care for them or need them. These nations only cared to disrupt Eritrea’s +10% economic growth.

          4. Didn’t you just tell people here not to be more catholic than the pope? …, yet here you are AGAIN being more catholic than the pope. Sir please take your own advise. You don’t know anyone here and i’m sure everyone here has a more meaningfully connection to their homeland then you sir. We don’t know whats going on every year like you. We know what is going on every second every minute.., and can verify it within seconds. So if you have anything to say about the article say it. Otherwise go to that hell called adigrat.

          5. It was obvious what you wished from my answer. Again, get your head straight, no one is telling you to stay in Eritrea if you are not happy there. However, do your homework to minimize your chances of living on subsidized housing and food stamps in Europe.

      3. Erena, you have not made any remarks regarding the article in this page, except going negative on everyone who commented on it. What is your take on the story of “Nasir”?

        1. To make remarks here, I have to be like you. Ignore everything and support every policy our country is being dragged into.
          Let’s support our government, but let’s also have the guts to say correction when we see wrongdoings.-
          My take on this is let’s not be Catholic more than the pop himself!!

          1. You’re funny. I bet you I can list legitimate PFDJ weakness better than you, because my lists will be based out of love for Eritrea and not out of hate of PFDJ.
            Although nonsense, unlike you, even Sentiko writes comments on the article. You on the other hand, your comments are only on what others wrote.

          2. That was very low punch! It’s very sad not being able to differentiate between sentiko and none sentiko! This year, when i went to Eritrea, I have done 11 days tour around the country, I visited part of Semhar, Senhit, Serete/Tsilima, Akele-Adi Keyih and of course Hama-Asmara. On my return I compiled a report, but this is not the right platform to exchange such intimate details about our country and people. Call me Sentiko again! Ignorant!…..best way to alienate the public.

          3. Ata Sentiko, kemey alecha? Ayyye, so glad they are giving you a taste of your own medicine. Even I know, you are supposed to say, hail to the king, Wedi Afom till death ata komal. How dare you blame the Mengistu era military service of self reliance? First, I have a hard time believing you prepared a report on any kind but I would be interested to see this intimate” details. Let me give you advice as someone who truly wishes to see Eritreans free from this worthless leader and it’s not because of selfish reasons. Simply put, peace would serve our people more than what we have today. Plus, as much as I like this site, I would like to come one day without some ignorant fool giving me a blood pressure. My advice, regardless of how you feel about Ethiopia, speak up louder, don’t let them make you feel like you are less of an Eritrean than them. In any land, no five million can speak all good about their leader, even in democracy. The constructive criticism is what ultimately makes an excellent leaders, not the other way around. If you have a relative from his hamsen cliques, please tell him to sit down and talk before it’s too late. Sincerely Ballance. Good day Sentiko.

          4. Ugumesh
            Remember: Erena and I may have difference of opinion on PFDJ although are from one family of Oranges which is very different that of yours, the family of Quenty “Fruit”.

          5. Lol. I love your fake unity, I truly do. How is it different tho? The issue at hand is your intolerance behavior that doesn’t welcome constructive criticism from your own or outside, the one that calls all names if they dare to say how stupid your leader has been, the one that told you Ethiopians are your enemy and the one that closed all doors on the youth and blames them or “woyane” if they leave for better life like Nasir. The point here, even someone like myself do care about Nasir and may like him, from Tigray camp to Europe. But Gog forbid if people hold the one and only evil jebha turned shabo leader of yours. Remember, he is the leader at the top, isn’t he?

          6. Please save your sympathy and pretending to care! Stick all that where the sun don’t shine!! We will alway have differences in our opinion.. We will call each other names.. But at the end, we will always be brothers/sisters. However, you on the other hand will always be Weyanay/outsider.. And if I see you hurting my brothers(B.Adel etc..) I will come down on you like a raging buffalo!! Kemalam Teklehaymanot!!

          7. Let this be on the record, I do care. Do we all have to pledge allegiance to Wedi Afom first then care? Wtf, here is the point, IQ and his likes blame the youth for leaving because it makes them look bad. For a long time, they didn’t even acknowledge their existence, they were all “agames”. Then, when UN came out with a report of crossing border security, it became a conspiracy theory. Then, as you rightly pointed out, they blame the victims but none towards the main guy, you guessed it right. If they don’t call out the BS, we are ready to bring them back. At that point, you can blame “woyane”.
            P.S. I was in Asmera in 85-89 after you-left, technically I have more right, connection to speak about it than you, komal.

          8. Give it up Tselim Libie!! You don’t care, you have no right to care! Just concentrate on feeding your hungry.. How many Beles did you skin during during that time.

          9. Erena nebsi, you are wiser than me. I did not mean to compare you to Sentiko …Sorry!!!
            I just wanted you to realize just like you, we are also in pain when we read/see our own Eritrean & African brothers in bad shape in Europe. We should all focus on how to help young people like Nasir, regardless of their choice. They need our help, once we help them then we can trash talk 🙂

      4. Always I read your comment !Amazing,endless service for your home it is
        not a slavery it is the the labor of love but for the Eritrean enemies
        it is slavery. What is better to be homeless in the fore in-country or
        serving your people ? I never encounter negative nonsense low thinking
        as you .you don’t really belong here dud .You and your likeliness by
        given a false information you cheat naive young men.

      5. Erena, fair point but you are missing that the rules of engagements are changed. For instance, When my parents came to the US, they came through Sudan. back then the game was different, the UN and other western countries they come and they resettle you with appropriate avenue and with planed i.e. you might have a better life, a chance to go to school and the right to work. But now, the refugees are showing up in the streets of the west and the westerners are at lost with what to do. when the refugee show up in the streets of the west, they are on their own. Forget going to school so can you better yourself, but the refugees are struggling for the next meal and they are homeless. So, back then, in the 80’s when some one leaves their country, there was a good chance for someone to better their live but now, there is no such a thing. this time around, not only your dignity is lost but your humanity is taken away. today, you better stay home, you better take advantage of the free education, you better not waste your time, you better to make your life worth living. Stay home and make your country the country you wish to live in.
        The one that gets me is the young once those are missing out in school and wasting their young and productive lives for nothing. So, Erena, there is huge difference, don’t you agree?

    2. I and so many our country men would would prefer to live in the above situation than live under slavery back home lets not kid our selves.Who want to live under endless national service that amount to slavery and under meager salary.

      1. “Nassir”: “There were times when I thought I would be better off back at home as at least there I had my family,” Filly, why don’t you speak for yourself? who are you scared of? I promise you, i will make sure you won’t be scared again. Come home, we’ve got tseba’n meAr??

      2. Why don’t you then help our brother Nassir? Ahhhh, I know you’re going to say…. he is not from your region. May be even not from your religion. Known regionalists and demagogues like you have gotten many Nassir in this mess, but, as One Observer pointed out earlier, none of you are helping them out. Coward!

          1. I think he is an Eritrean scumbag. Let’s us not be fulled; we’ve got many of them out there. Just as this filthy idiot, here and there I see them crawling out of the woodwork… to divert and divide Eritreans.

          2. Tesfanews aya maarey when are you going to stand up against bulling such as the above who have zero relevance to mature debate?I wander how they treat their wifes,brothers,kids in their household for differences of opinions?Aya tesfa news please stand up please stand up

          3. LOOOOL, this is classic ضربَني وبَكَى، سَبَقَنِي واشتَكَى, similar to the old saying “the pot calling the kettle black.”

            TN, hate me for exposing who this scumbag really is. I know you have seen his post in this forum and please don’t make me dig them just to prove who this worthless Reginalist is – with big R.

            TN, please know that I will not stop for exposing TPLFite lies and for treating this reginalist scum no different.

          4. Let me pay one way ticket to Eritrea for you luftanza first class including 3 months accommodation including military gear and a bar of soap.All from me so you can serve at the national service.Lets see how brave and patriotic Eritrean you are or a computer tiger as you seem to be

          5. Thank you for your kindness, but i have to remind you that i already did the base what Semaetat ask to any Eritrean, knowing that many thousands paid already their ultimate priceless gift to Her, i’m conscious that i have to do still lot as promise again, and just doing from Europe my part as small contribution to re-build Eritrea. “mes helenay dahan iye, gubuey giere iye, heji keman yegeber allequ, ne metsai keman kegebr iye”

      3. Filmon
        You seem to know too little about slavery. If you are an Eritrean and you have issues about the way Eritrea is governed or some specific issues like the national service, you could take up your concerns so every interested Eritrean can debate about have a say on it that is what we do here in thanks to TN.

  4. I knew this was going to happen, because the timing of the arrival of these brothers and sisters, coincides, with the financial havoc going on in western countries today.

    But I couldn’t say much openly because it would’ve been misconstrued, as trying to discourage these kids, while living in “luxury” oneself.

    I wonder what, those who fooled these young men and women have to say, about articles such as this?

  5. Dear Nassir, you are not alone in this and there should be a way out of this mess you find self in. For starters though, you need to get your head straight. Know what is right and wrong, true and false. If you are not able to put 2 & 2 together and get 4, you will keep making the same mistakes and life is going to get even worse for you. For example, for you to state back home is not safe is utter nonsense. Get this false propaganda out of your head. I know you know many migrants and refugees like you are going back home now days, possibly b/c they also found life in the west cruel. So, if you can get your life back in UK quickly, your only option is to go back home to your family and friends. Have this plan B ready. Remember, those who have told you to not go back home will never be there for you, which you already know. Good luck.

  6. Lets not get distracted you guys, especially from an enemy website like the GUARDIANS. What goes around comes around. Everyone is getting what they deserve. Lets focus on real development.

  7. when we were Children how many family had Vidio or Tv at home or can afford to go to Chinema in 70s and 80s?so there was almost no one who likes to leave the country for a traceless west Dream but if there is any then they must have a clear Picture of the west,but now efter Eritrea become independent almost everyone has TV and vidio at home or at the neighbors where you see it attractive westren Movie Daily so to grab that empty Dream they are going to take all the risk and they did,if they are lucky and if they came into Europé the first thing they do is to cut their hair Punk and they look like a superbow or they look like they come from “Star War” and start dancing as Machines.After almost 13 years in the same style,they Think they’ve done Everything but now they need unexpeted turnaround.

  8. Those young are dangerous to eritrea, they are mostly violent, they fight each other sometimes even kill people, their human nature has change, its to late for them, send them to tigray
    We don’t need them in eritrea.
    Violent bring violence

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