Graduate Story:

Jalloh Ibrahima

Jalloh is an asylum seeker from Newcastle who has is campaigning for better housing conditions for asylum seekers and refugees.

I arrived in the UK over 10 years ago as an asylum seeker from West Africa.

In that 10 years, I’ve had applications for refugee status rejected and I spent over two years in a detention centre. But for the past few years I’ve been in housing provided for asylum seekers in Newcastle, which is where they placed me when I was released from the detention centre.

Shortly after I came to Newcastle I joined the Migration Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF), a group that I meet with fortnightly, who I campaign with and who have supported me when I have needed it.

At a meeting last year I heard about Campaign Bootcamp, and I decided to submit an application. I have been campaigning around the poor housing conditions that asylum seekers face when living in the UK, and in particular, campaigning for asylum seekers to be given their own bedrooms.

Having my own room is important to me as I am a practicing Muslim, who prays 5 times a day. My room mate isn’t religious, and I don’t like having to wake my room mate up when I rise early (as early as 4:30am!) to complete my morning prayers. I feel guilty when I do, but when I am sharing a room, what can I do? Asylum seekers are also not allowed to work in the UK, so a lot of us have a lot of free time to spend at home. Not having your own room means a complete lack of privacy, and not feeling comfortable inviting friends and family to visit.

When I heard I had been accepted to Bootcamp, I was so excited. Asylum seekers don’t get many opportunities in the UK, and we often feel undervalued. So I was really happy to be given the chance to join the course, and I thought it would give my campaigning a boost.

On Bootcamp, my favourite sessions were the more hands-on things. I really liked learning how to make a video on a smart phone! I really appreciated how practical the course was, as I prefer to learn this way.

I also really liked learning about different types of campaigns and other issues that people are facing outside of what I campaign on. I learned so much – from hearing about the Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association campaign, to Repeal the Eighth.

I also really appreciated meeting people who had campaigned on things I could relate to around detention and the effect it can have on your mental health. I still keep in touch with a few people from camp and really value the relationships I built with campaigners I would have never met if it were not for me going on camp. It was also great for me to tell others about my campaign!

Shortly after Bootcamp I found myself at an event in Halifax with a fellow graduate, Vee. The event was designed to challenge G4S, who at the time held the contract for the housing I was in, and raise awareness of the poor living conditions we were facing.

This was part of a long-running campaign across the UK by many different individuals and groups, and I’m happy to say that G4S lost that contract for asylum seeker and refugee housing earlier this year. I recently met with the new company to win the government contract to manage and maintain housing for asylum seekers and refugees – a company called Mears.

The handover to this new company will begin in the Summer, and we will begin to be moved into new housing, this time with our own rooms! I and other campaigners and asylum seekers met with them to make sure they are aware of the things we have been campaigning on – which stretch beyond the demand for individual rooms. We’ve also demanded that they provide adequate housing for mothers with children – as previously mothers were housed in overcrowded hostels, and might be moved long distances at short notice despite having children going to school in the local area, and having settled into communities.

In the mean time, myself and other MAJF members have turned our focus on campaigning for asylum seekers to gain access to scholarships for higher education in the UK. Many asylum seekers want to go to university, but there are so many barriers to this happening, most of them financial.

I will continue to campaign to make sure my brothers and sisters have an equal and fair chance to be educated and succeed in life. Watch this space…

Jalloh Ibrahima

I live in the North East in Newcastle and I'm a campaigner! I like campaigning as I enjoy helping and giving a voice to asylum seekers and refugees, including myself. My campaigning is involved with getting a better housing for asylum seekers so that we don't need share bedrooms permanently - as some of us have been in this condition for a very long time. I hope that one day this unjust situation will stop. It's looking very good so far as the Newcastle council is on our side!