Asylum-seeker life: in limbo, and we can’t work

In her place of origin, Congo Brazzaville, Patricia was a paediatric nurse and worked in the local hospital and her mother’s pharmacy. “She was killed by the Government,” says Patricia, “because she didn’t agree with what they were doing. Then her husband fled the country to save his own life, because he was also a member of the opposition party.”

Despite all the difficulties Patricia decided to stay on and bravely resisted for five years, but in her country the “political beliefs” of her family were a stigma that it was difficult and dangerous to carry. So, in 2003, Patricia too was forced to leave her country and decided to head for the UK to seek political asylum. “Initially they didn’t believe my story at the Home Office and refused me asylum. It’s so frustrating. As an asylum seeker you are not allowed to work and you’re not allowed to do any full-time courses. Living like that can make you go crazy.”

After spending her first few years in the UK going in and out of detention centres she moved to Glasgow, where thanks to the help and support of the Scottish Refugee Council she finally obtained political asylum and realized how many women like her still needed help and assistance. Today Patricia has become part of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, which helps women get information and advice about everything to do with asylum, and gives them strength from a psychological point of view.

“With our work we have changed things too. Now women seeking asylum in Scotland can ask for childcare when they are interviewed at the Home Office; that’s because we wrote a letter asking for that change. I myself am finally free from the Home Office but I want to continue being part of the Strategy Group in order to help other people. Here they’ve helped me to see that I’m not the only one.”

Berthe Patricia Nganga is 44 and comes from Congo Brazzaville. In August, 2011, she was granted political asylum. Today she lives in Glasgow where she is a member of the Women’s Strategy Group, which has the support of the Scottish Refugee Council.