Refugee Week 2023: Compassion – Clara’s story*
Last updated: 22/06/2023
Clara is a single mum from Nigeria and is seeking asylum in the UK.
“I came to Scotland from Nigeria 6 years ago with my three children. They have made lots of friends and they’re doing well in school. They enjoy being in Scotland. They found it hard at first with the cold weather and the Scottish accent.
Scottish people are nice and welcoming. 95% of people are really nice, which has helped us adapt to living here.
I had a good experience when I arrived: Dundee people helped me find my way around. Some people are nice and would show me where to get the bus. We received food packs from organisations during COVID-19 and it was really helpful. I like the experience here. I go to church and they welcome everyone, no matter if you are black or white. Dundee people are kind and compassionate. They say ‘hi’ and greet you even if they don’t really know you, which has helped me and my family settle in.
The community, the church and the school are very welcoming. The children got to go on school trips even though I didn’t have the money to pay for the trips. I was so happy they gave them uniform to wear on the first day they went to school. That made them feel happy and fit in easier. The head teacher at their school has been very supportive and helpful, making sure that my children don’t miss out.
However, there have been a small number of people that have not been as welcoming. My neighbour is really nasty. Some people when we go to the supermarket, they are nasty and make racial comments about us. My neighbour was threatening me with big dogs and my children were scared. The police came out and spoke to the neighbour and they don’t bother us anymore, but we don’t have the sort of nice neighbours that many people talk about. It’s not safe for my children to go to the local park on their own because of my neighbour.
Home Office accommodation
You don’t have the right to change anything in the house. They bring you a chair. The toys are not your toys. The walls were stained with mould and ruined our dresses. Housing came and removed the mould from the wall, we had to move all our belongings out of the room. While removing the mould they also removed some of the paint. So even though the mould was removed, it didn’t look nice. Then the housing association said it was only their responsibility to remove the mould and I would have to go back to the Home Office to ask them to paint it. They said that they will paint it by end of June – I been waiting for 2 months already. My youngest son doesn’t want to sleep in the room as you can see the bare wall and it doesn’t look nice and sometimes he sleeps with me.
We could only bring some things that we could carry.
I had to leave behind wedding gifts, children’s pictures. I used to take photos of my children every month and put them into an album. My plan was to give the photo albums to my children on their wedding day, but I had to leave them behind in Nigeria. I had packed them up and took them with us to the airport. My husband who I was escaping from due to his violent and controlling behaviour, took us to the airport – I had to lie to him and pretend we were just going on holiday as he would never let us escape from him. He noticed the bags with the photo albums and insisted we wouldn’t need them for a holiday, plus I had too much luggage to take on the plane. My husband took the photo albums home. He doesn’t know where we are, I have no contact with him, so I will never be able to get the photos back.
If I went somewhere else in Nigeria, my husband would track me down and take my children away from me. The police in Nigeria are sometimes corrupt if I turned to them for help – I couldn’t trust them – they would call my husband to come and collect me so I couldn’t escape. You can’t ask people for help.
The Home Office doesn’t believe the abuse I experienced despite all the evidence I gave them. It is really sad. Some people are lucky -after one year they get the right to stay. It’s hard being a single parent and a lot of stress, I am trying my best to keep my children safe. The Home Office says there are safe places we can go to Nigeria. I have a new lawyer now and they seem better and more understanding. In Scotland, I feel free and safe for me and my children.
Being a single parent
Being a single parent is challenging and stressful. You must look after their wellbeing and be their mother and father. You are the doctor, the teacher, you have to be their everything. I am struggling mentally with the flashbacks to the abuse and the things I ran away from. Regardless of how I am coping, I always have to be there for the children. Financially it is really difficult, and I am not allowed to work. It’s hard when the kids want things their friends have but I can’t afford. It’s a sacrifice being a single parent. I always want to be there for my children.
The future and support from Scottish communities and organisations
I want to be able to care for people when I’m allowed to work in Scotland. To help other people that are having mental challenges. I had a decent job when I was in Nigeria, and I have qualifications. It’s hard relying on handouts when I want to be able to work and provide for my family.
I get support from my GP, OPFS, and a local mental health charity, they speak to me and help. They talk to me about I’m going through and say I am experiencing post-traumatic stress. They tell me about things I can do when I’m finding things difficult. My GP referred me to a community walking group. It is helpful because you chat to other people, you learn from other people going through similar situations. When you are out walking it helps – you forget your worries, you talk, instead of sitting alone at home with your thoughts.
* A pseudonym has been used to protect identity.