This article was written by self proclaimed 'full-time asylum-seeker' Hannibal Albendago who hails from Libya.
Hannibal is currently working on his fresh asylum claim and has been homeless in Manchester since his last refusal. Here he talks about his experiences in the British asylum system and living as an asylum-seeker in Manchester...
This is a true story of my life as an asylum seeker. I really appreciate the valuable time you have taken to read my account.
An asylum-seeker is someone whose claim for refugee status is still being decided.
The procedure can take anything from several months to a few years to be resolved, including the possibility of appealing against a refusal. Personally, it has been over 8 years and I still don’t know when I will finally be able to live as a normal person.
Whilst lengthy asylum procedures prolong uncertainty for asylum-seekers and costs for the state, rushed decisions could put people at risk and in need. The challenge of a good system of asylum is to balance speed with quality.
A brief note about the Home office: it is intimidating and scary. You can't know what they're thinking, but because of my past experiences with them, I can tell already what they’ll say: “no”, I already know they're going to say “you're lying”.
You just never know with them. It's just so uncertain, you don't know whether they’ll grant or refuse your application. Inside, when you go to sign on, you don't know if they're going to call you in for an interview or if they're going to give you a refusal straight there and then. They can do anything they feel like doing.
Whatever you say, however honest, pleading and desperate you are, they'll listen and tell you the same thing: “I don't believe you”, “I can't help you”, “Contact your caseworker”, “Contact your lawyer”. They make everything so complicated, everything is so hard.
You don't know what's going to happen to you. Eventually you find out that there's something you can do to help yourself and to make life better. So I say, ok, let me go and seek that. Now, I know I was brave but when I went I was very naïve. It’s down to the asylum seeker to prove himself.. I came from
persecution, but some people come from war. They just run. They have nothing.
I thought that claiming asylum was all I needed to do, but you have to do so much more. The burden of proof is so big. I hate the word “evidence”, it’s horrible and frustrating. They push people so far that they start forgetting things or having to lie about evidence because all they're thinking is the impossibility of returning to where they’ve come from.
I have been in the UK for a long time now, so how do they expect me to get new evidence for a fresh claim? It’s a difficult and complicated procedure.
The burden on proof should lie with the Home Office, not the person who's running away from persecution or war. Not on the person who's suffering, the person who's scared of being imprisoned, who's facing discrimination.
It shouldn't be that way. Vulnerable people should not have to prove themselves in this way, rather the burden should lie on the other side.
The “asylum seeker” label, makes people treat you as if you're beneath them. Most of the English people I've come in contact with are nice, but some are nasty.
This game is all about surviving, since I was refused in 2012 my life has been turned upside down. I get support from the red cross, but this isn’t much for a person to live on; a Food parcel and £5 per week.
Living on £5 a week, the boredom of waiting for trial, this dehumanising system and canned food, it reminds me of WW1 and WW2. I really hope we don’t have an apocalypse - I hate canned food so much! Now the Red Cross has decided to cut my support because I have been with them for over a year, it’s so ridiculous it makes me laugh! But now I’m living off £10 a week which I get it from the Boaz Trust, and thanks to them I am hosted by a very kind British couple.
I’m not competing with anyone, I have no desire to play the superiority game. I am simply trying to be a better person than I was yesterday and the day before yesterday and before that and before etc...
No permission to work and dependent on charities for food and clothes.
I'm trying to keep myself busy. I try to get involved in different organisations. It helps me to reduce the stress in my life. I may be an asylum seeker and homeless, but I love to be healthy and fit. I enjoy physical activities, exploring and living adventurously! You don't need to visit the Himalayas, the Andes, Inca ruins, Egyptian pyramids or Mount Everest to have adventures and
explore - It's all around you right where you are.
I may be homeless but never hopeless. Nor desperate. Because that’s what the UKBA (UK Border Agency) wanted me to be. Humans sometimes make things so complicated for each other; since when do you need documents to prove that you human? They never thought “This person came to our land in need of help, lets help the poor guy".
Where are the human rights? Because I thought UK was all about human rights and equality. Even though I am homeless and broke, I am still keeping up with what I love to do and what I enjoy, not even Jesus could stop me now! I have been down so many times, but I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and come through the other side.
My final words
As a young man in Libya, you don’t have any dreams. You can’t.
I want to thank all my friends and people who been involved and supported me during my life in UK so far.
Thank you for the safety, respect and values you share with refugees. Thank you for sharing with us your shelter, food, time, thoughts and smiles.
GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 27.2.2016
Do you remember Alyan Kurdi? The 3 years old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach near Bodrum and made global headlines? I think most of the people in the world have heard about him.
Now Missy higgins, Australian singer-songwriter and musician, sings a song a for him to tell his tragic story. She shared the song on her Facebook and said;
Like most people, the photo of little Alan Kurdi being carried out of the water shook me to my core. We often read about the tragic plight of refugees but I think that picture exposed us to the reality in such a raw way that the truth became inescapable.
‘Oh Canada’ simply aims to tell a story. It’s not preaching anything in particular, it’s simply my attempt to make sense out of senselessness. If it also reminds people of what happened to Alan and his family then I think that would be good – after what they went through they don’t deserve to be forgotten. If the song reminds people how the picture of that lifeless little boy made them feel then that would be even better because that proves we’re all very similar people who just happen to live under different circumstances. If the song inspires anyone to do something on behalf of refugees – to speak up for their rights and to push back against those who seek to inflame our fears and prejudices – then I think that would be best of all. ”
‘Oh Canada’ is out now, with 100% of net proceeds from sales going to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).
The song is accompanied by a powerful animated video created by award winning director Natasha Pincus and animation director Nicholas Kallincos.
Caritas and World Vision Australia support programs in Syria and neighbouring countries that create spaces where children can express their feelings of the past and hopes for the future. The drawings in the ‘Oh Canada’ video are by children in Caritas programs in Damascus, Syria and in World Vision programs in Beirut, Lebanon. Both the global Caritas network and World Vision have helped millions of people affected by the crisis in the Middle East.
Watch the video here:
GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 20.2.2016
Have you ever seen a refugee cat? Well I have known one recently thanks to Guardian.
According to the Guardian’s story, Kunkush the cat has become a refugee in Norway. Kunkush who separated from its Iraqi family on the way to Europe, was found and fostered in Berlin, where an international online search was co-ordinated in the hope of reuniting him with his family.
What the video:
GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 19.2.2016
Hundreds of Mancunians and Chinese braved the cold and hailstones to celebrate Chinese New Year parade in the heart of Chinatown on February 7. The ritual started with dragon Parade as usual and continued with traditional lion dances, music and acrobatics, a funfair and fireworks finale.
I had the chance to be around town hall just before the venue starts and see Chinese dance. I liked it that Chinese have managed to become a very powerful and successful community in the UK and run such a huge festival in Manchester city centre. I have been to Mega Mela which is the largest celebration of South Asian Culture in the North of England, but Mela usually takes place at Platt Field park.
According to Chinese calendar, 2016 is the year of the Monkey. Monkey is ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. Monkey is a clever animal. It is usually compared to a smart person.
It has also been said that this year is the year of the Fire Monkey. But what that means?
In addition to the twelve year cycle corresponding to each of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, there are Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) which are associated with their own “life force” or “chi”. This energy blends with the corresponding animal to determine that year’s fortune. In 2016, the corresponding element is fire. Fire is also associated with the colour red. Therefore it is the year of the Red Monkey.
Read this to find out what this year will bring us.
British Medical Journal: New proposals make the NHS the most restrictive healthcare system in Europe for undocumented migrants
The Department of Health is planning to extend charges on migrants into emergency departments and primary health services. Medics and researchers writing for the British Medical Journal have warned:
"Although the government asserts that the NHS is “overly generous to those who have only a temporary relationship with the UK,” these proposals will make the NHS a highly restrictive healthcare system for migrants to access care and treatment. Of particular concern is the effect on the thousands of undocumented migrants living without legal status in the UK, who are often marginalised, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and have poor health outcomes." 
There has an outpouring of concern for how these measures will affect the thousands of undocumented individuals living in the UK without legal status.
The Migrants' Rights Network welcomed the BMJ group's conclusions, stating:
targeting undocumented migrants raises concerns because many of them will be unable to pay. The policy also has implications for both individual and public health and run contrary to other national strategies, including engaging high risk migrant groups in screening for latent tuberculosis. 
The BMJ report also stated:
The 2013 consultation, which launched the NHS visitor and migrant cost recovery programme, was framed in the context of restricting services and making the UK a “hostile environment” for undocumented migrants. It was debated alongside the 2014 Immigration Bill, described by the Migrants’ Rights Network as “the most draconian challenge to the rights of migrants, and the communities they live in, for a generation.” Phases 1-3 of the 2014-16 implementation plan have so far introduced incentives for services to identify chargeable patients, piloted the recovery of costs for European economic area (EEA) nationals, and introduced a 150% tariff in secondary care for non-EEA nationals and the immigration health surcharge. In addition, information sharing is now taking place between the NHS and Home Office systems to improve the identification of chargeable migrants and for immigration enforcement.
The group also insisted that as well making the UK's system incredibly restrictive and putting off migrants and undocumented individuals from seeking much needed healthcare, the new measures are also unworkable, as has been proved in other countries where such measures were implemented:
What is alarming in this latest consultation is the commitment to expand charging into emergency services. For many undocumented migrants, the emergency department represents their only source of government funded primary and secondary healthcare, alongside limited provision from non-governmental organisations such as Doctors of the World; for some vulnerable migrants,including victims of trafficking, the emergency department provides a safe and anonymous place to present. Migrants in the UK already face known barriers to registering with primary care services, leaving them few options. Currently, most other European countries allow undocumented migrants to access free care through emergency departments. In Spain and Sweden, where more restrictive access arrangements were introduced, the governments subsequently reversed the decision because they were unworkable and excluding migrants from healthcare and screening created numerous health risks.
Doctors of the World also released a briefing opposing the charges.
Read the full briefing here.
The BMJ article called for 'robust research' to be carried into the cost effectiveness and health implications of expanding charging systems further, before implementation.
The government should refrain from making policy decisions to address the NHS’ financial problems based on populist reactions, through targeting undocumented migrants for charging, rather than on robust evidence.
Migrant Echoes & Migrants Supporting Migrants will mark International Women's Day on 8th March 2016 with events during the week held in Manchester and Crumpsall.
In preparation for the event, ME and MSM will be bringing women from the organisation and from the wider community together to attend a collaborative workshop to produce creative zines that will be available to purchase at these events.
Anyone who wishes to participate and who identifies as a woman is welcome to attend these workshops which will be held in the Methodist Central Hall every Thursday 11am-12pm in the run up to International Women's Day.
The workshop will be run by Sophia Gardiner, Migrant Echoes' project worker and visual artist.
If you would like more information on the workshops, please contact her at sophie(at)migrantsupport.org.uk
[PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to attend the workshops, you are also free to send in any submission you write/make to the above email address. You are also encouraged to bring along your own materials to contribute to the zines]
You can find the Facebook event page here.
GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 3.2.2016
I have been watching Shappi ( Shaparak) Khorsandi on youtube tonight. Shappi introduce herself as “an Iranian refugee”. She and her family were forced to flee from Iran after the Islamic Revolution following the publication of a satirical poem her father composed. He is a well-known comedian in Iran.
Shappi has graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Drama, Theatre and Television, then moving on to pursue a career in comedy. She has won many prizes and one of them for her charity works. She has also published her book ” A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English” in July 2009. The book describes the way in which young Khorsandi experienced England as a young girl. The narrative begins with her attending nursery school, The Kings’ International Nursery School, with her brother, Peyvand. Throughout the book, she explains the ways in which the Iranian language differs from English: “They called me ‘poppet’. Iranians said ‘jaan’ or ‘azizam’.” She also expresses pride in how her father took English classes and was praised for his affinity with the written word, though she also felt he was able to be more humorous in Farsi. Other themes include her experiences with English food and customs, the war between Iran and Iraq, and the hostilities that she and her family encounter–she notes, for example, having been referred to as a terrorist.
Watch her selected clip from Apolo:
News circulated this week that the EU is writing up legislation meaning that people who help to rescue drowning refugees will face prosecution, criminalising them as smugglers.
The news comes from Statewatch, who say that interior EU ministers were drawing up the plans to deter the flow of refugees trying to make the life threatening journey across the Mediterranean, many aiming to reach the shores of Greek Islands such as Lesvos, and southern Italy.
The Director of Positive Action in Housing, the refugee homelessness charity, Robina Qureshi, said in response in a recent statement: “If the EU plans to criminalise charities and volunteers who help refugees arriving on Lesvos or any of the Greek islands, does this mean that are also going to criminalise and arrest the UNHCR, OXFAM, Doctors of the World, Doctors of the World, International Rescue, the Spanish Lifeguards, the Greek Lifeguards, Ai Weiwei, Eric Kempson, Philippa Kempson, Ken Loach, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Corbyn, Trade unions, politicians, old age pensioners, students and medics as well? So they are going to let refugees drown and imprison the world’s humanitarians? And how will the history books record it. The fact is we have a growing movement of charities and volunteers from across the world who are in danger of being criminalised for doing the right thing and resisting the EU's de facto genocide of refugees. We are making a significant difference on the island by supplying funds for lifeguards, medical facilities and shelter, as well as doctors, volunteers, clothing and medical supplies. We need voices from across the world to speak out and challenge the EU’s secret plans. We are not going to stop helping.” 
Other public figures and commentators responded to the news with outrage at the notion of criminalising aid workers, volunteers and well-meaning public trying to assist refugees who have just overcome a harrowing, incredibly dangerous journey from the shores of North Africa, many calling for opposition to the plans and urging European citizens to continue to help vulnerable people who's lives are at risk.
Hate Crime Awareness week starts from 8th February till 14th February.
Manchester City Council defines Hate Crime on it's website as:
any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s characteristic or perceived characteristic including:
You can see more information about reporting hate crime to 'third party reporting centres' here.
In one of our first Migrant Echoes Podcasts we discussed tackling hate crime with Greater Manchester's Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, Jim Battle: