Exhibition about Young Asylum Seekers in the UK

Published: 25 October 2015

Country: UK

Asylum_Exhibition_2“Being an asylum seeker means waiting – always waiting. We’ve been waiting for four years now. It’s stopping you doing so much that you could achieve: I would be driving by now, I would be working, I would be going to uni.” This is part of the Maheen Habib Gill’s story at the Claiming a New Place on Earth exhibition in London.

Focusing not only on their journeys to the UK but also on their efforts to establish new lives, the exhibition tells the stories of ten young asylum seekers. They are portrayed through professions and careers they dream to have such as mechanic, doctor, accountant, but without the legal status and papers in the UK, possibilities for work and studies are limited.

Madina Bamba wants to be a nurse. “The most painful is not working and having people think that I don’t want to work, that I just want to sit here and take benefits.

Asylum_Exhibition_3Sheun Odebiyi for example, did well in aeronautical engineering and managed to get a two-year apprenticeship with British Airways, but because he is an asylum seeker, he couldn’t enrol.

Statistics published by the British Government in March 2017, show there has been a significant increase in the number of people seeking refuge in the UK having to wait longer than six months for a decision on their asylum application. The figures show that at the end of March 2017, there were 8,879 asylum applications that hadn’t received an initial decision within six months — a 72% increase on twelve months before. Refugee Council warns that the delay means that asylum seekers are “made to live in poverty, banned from working and simply unable to begin the process of rebuilding their lives”.

“Thousands of teenagers arrive in the UK every year seeking asylum, some with family members, many on their own. Many have missed out on an education and are scarred by war and having to flee their home countries. In the UK, they must navigate complex systems to get the support they need. Yet these are also young people with talent, pride, aspirations and dreams,” says Veronique Mistiaen. She and the photographer Caroline Irby, through images and interviews, recorded the journeys of a series of refugees and asylum seekers who arrived in the UK as minors and are now coming of age.

Caroline and Veronique who has also worked for MDI as an expert, collaborated with  Breaking Barriers,  a charity that helps refugee to find meaningful employment in the UK.