Hussein is proud of his home. He wants to put some curtains up in the windows, buy a TV and also get a microwave so he can heat up food for his baby son. This is the first time he has had a place of his own, having previously spent eight years travelling in foot in Europe and living in encampments in Europe. Hussein was born in Kuwait and is from the traditionally nomadic Bedouin culture. He had no personal documents such as a passport or birth certificate which has made life very difficult for him when he attempted to seek asylum.
Leaving Kuwait in 2015 having been estranged from his Muslim family after his conversion to Christianity, Hussein spent seven years trying to reach a place of safety. He said, “I had no choice. Everyone refused me…Sweden, Finland, France. I had no options. I was living in the forest and travelling. Also living in encampments for years. Sometimes in a group, sometimes alone. I damaged my back during this time.”
In 2020 he attempted to cross from Calais to Kent in a boat. It sank three times as it had holes in it. He indicates the deep water up to his chest. On arrival in England, Hussein lived in a hotel in Stratford for seven months. He moved to Norwich in December 2021 and now has a partner and baby son.
He said, “It’s better here than in my country. There is no-one to help in Kuwait. You can’t go to hospital. There is no chance to study.” He describes being here as ‘hard, but better’. He Hussein is currently studying English at Norwich City College and this is the first time he has studied in his life.
He needs to improve his language skills before he can gain employment. He wants to work in occupational health and safety.
Hussein first had contact with St Martins when he lived in temporary accommodation provided by Norwich City Council. Everything was new for Hussein so the St Martins team helped him navigate the benefits system and paperwork. Once he moved into his own flat, St Martins support worker Kim helped him settle and sort out his bills and budgeting, which Hussein would have found impossible to do on his own. He said, “If I didn’t have her I would go crazy!” Hussein is on a low budget so Kim spoke to the utility companies on Hussein’s behalf to arrange his direct debit to come out at the beginning of the month. Hussein’s funds are limited and his priority is to pay his rent and his energy bill so he maintains his tenancy. He said, “Every month the last ten days are very difficult.” He enjoys cooking, especially fish, and has to carefully plan his shopping and expenditure.
Despite the hardship and loneliness he experienced – he had to leave his brother behind in France – Hussein maintains a positive outlook and has formed good relationships with his neighbours. He is incredibly grateful to have a safe warm place to live. Little by little his sparsely decorated flat is becoming more like a home.