A refugee who spent the pandemic working on an NHS Covid-19 ward has hit out at immigration plans from Home Secretary Priti Patel saying they will see refugees like her turned away from the UK.
Figures released on Tuesday (June 1) suggest two in every three women and children that the UK would accept as refugees now would be turned away in future under proposed new Government rules, campaigners say.
Coalition group Together With Refugees is calling for a more effective, fair and humane approach to the UK’s asylum system.
The Home Office said the figures released by the group “wrongly conflate” refugees with people arriving via an “illegal route”.
Mariam, from Eritrea, has been working 12-hour shifts in a Leeds hospital assisting coronavirus patients for sometimes four days in a row.
She arrived in the UK after fleeing persecution and imprisonment in Eritrea, coming in the back of a lorry in 2009.
However, Home Office plans to overhaul the immigration system may well have seen her application rejected because of her method of a rrival, she told the PA news agency.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Mariam said: “When I left Eritrea, I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.
“I just knew I had to get out. Every day, I thank God for bringing me here, and secondly I thank the people of the UK who saved me.
“Because I am alive and because I am in a safe country I promise to God that I will help anyone.”
Mariam, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was granted asylum after her arrival in the UK and works as a clinical support worker, battling on the front line of the health crisis.
Mariam has called on the government not to deport people claiming asylum, saying “the world knows what is happening” in places like Eritrea.
Outlining her plans for immigration reform in March, Home Secretary Ms Patel said: “For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.
“We will deem their claim as inadmissible, and make every effort to remove those who enter the UK illegally having travelled through a safe country first in which they could and should have claimed asylum.”
The Government’s New Plan for Immigration document claimed that for the year ending September 2019, more than 60% of asylum claims were from people who are thought to have entered the UK “illegally”.
Sabir Zazai, Together With Refugees spokesperson and a refugee himself, said: “Abandoning people fleeing war and persecution, including women and children, is not who we are in the UK.
“These are people in fear of their lives. These are people like me.
“These are also people like you, people who want to live in safety and dignity.”
Additional reporting by PA.