Group in Kentish Town warn ‘hostile environment’ means trained healthcare staff are being ‘left to rot’
15 June, 2018 — By William McLennan
The group meet at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town
NURSES and midwives from a Kentish Town asylum-seekers’ group say that the government’s hostile immigration policies mean they have been “left to rot” instead of using their training to meet the national shortage of hospital staff.
Members of the All African Women’s Group, based at Crossroads Women’s Centre in Wolsey Mews, said that one in 10 of the 100 asylum seekers they support has medical training, but are being threatened with deportation instead of being allowed to work on short-staffed NHS wards. Hospital trusts plan to hire nurses directly from countries such as India and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, medically-trained asylum seekers fighting deportation are banned from working and left to survive on a handout of around £35 a week.
Ruby Olok, 45, fled “very serious violence” in Uganda, where she worked for a decade as a midwife. She said: “We are all women who should be working, providing for our children and society, but we are trapped because of the Home Office. “We are just one example, but it’s typical of so many people elsewhere. People who have worked in care.”
She fears for her life if she returns home, but is in limbo while she waits for her case to be heard. “We ran away from a hostile environment – when there is war there is rape and torture – and came here. Now, we are facing another hostile environment here.” “If I go there I will die, but if I stay here in this environment I will die. I can’t work, I can’t do anything. Why are we treated like this?” She said nursing was a “calling,” adding: “We are proud of our calling.”
Another nurse, who asked not to be named, said: “Nursing and midwifery is a job I love, but they are turning me into a vegetable. I’m wasting away.”
She has two adult children in Nigeria who she has not been able to visit for six years. “It’s too painful. I’m missing my children a lot,” she said.
Bonita Brown, 49, came to the UK from Nigeria as a student nurse in 2006. “I worked as a nurse here for nine years. Then eventually I put in my application for indefinite leave to remain and they turned it down. I keep putting in appeals. I have put in an appeal on human rights.” One 27-year-old woman moved to the UK in 2012 to escape a trafficking gang in Albania, where she was training as a nurse.
She has been told to leave the country, along with her five-year-old daughter, who was born in the UK, but is appealing the decision.
She said that the Kentish Town group was “empowering”. “Even if the horrible Home Office doesn’t recognise us, there are these amazing people here who are fighting for our rights, with us, saying that you are someone. We are being isolated. It makes our self-esteem go so down.”
The Home Office said: “Most asylum applicants are not allowed to work while we consider their application.” In some cases people will be given permission to work in “shortage occupations”, which include nursing. Asylum seekers who are homeless or cannot afford to buy food “may qualify for free housing and financial help”.