"The system itself is difficult and it has been made more difficult."


Once my immigration status changed, I was entitled to apply for benefits, and because I had worked in the UK legally, when I was a student, I had a National Insurance number. But I didn't know the system! They made me suffer for that. They said I could have put in the application for benefits before long before, but they had never explained that to me! I think the people who work in immigration don't tell them what they are entitled to. They don't ask about your situation in detail—they just say straight away "you are not entitled". Then you find out from somewhere else that you are... The system itself is difficult and it has been made more difficult now as before we had HIV specialist social workers, so you could go to them and they would advocate for you.

Now there is nothing. You have to tell your story everywhere you go. That is the problem even with the vouchers. Every time you sign on, you see someone different, even though they have your file with everything in it and they know you are coming... they ask the same questions every time, "why are you here?", "Why do you need the vouchers?" and "Why are you applying as an asylum seeker?" They have your file, but they want you to disclose your status in front of everybody. I can tell them, but it's all open plan there, and I am not going to disclose it in front of everybody.

One of the Asylum Workers let me go into a private side room for my interview (they do that if you ask them to). But no one tells you that you can ask for privacy. If English is your second language, then it's going to be difficult to realise you can ask for privacy. They think you are refusing to answer their question. When we had social workers, it was easier, as they would ask on your behalf. But if you don't know that you can have privacy, you suffer.