What were you doing at 21?

A destitute man c.Kuzma/ iStock
Many people seeking asylum in the UK are left destitute

What were you doing at 21?  I was celebrating finishing university and worrying about finding a full-time job. It seemed a big deal at the time.

This is what was running through my head as I sat in on the first meeting between Tommy, one of our caseworkers, and a 21-year-old man from *Eritrea who’d just got his refugee status meaning he could stay in the UK.

Of course, getting refugee status comes with some relief. Relief that you're not being sent back to the horrific situation you’ve escaped from. But the struggles don't end when you get the OK to remain in the UK. That much became clear as I listened to Tommy and his client speak to each other through an interpreter.

With refugee status, people get the same rights (apart from being able to vote or stand for election) as a UK citizen, but also the same responsibilities.

At just 21, this young man now faced having to learn a different language while getting to grips with the complicated rules and systems of a foreign country. That's as well as finding a roof to live under and a job.

How do you search and apply for jobs, and report your efforts to the job centre, if you can’t yet read or write in English?

When going through tough times, many of us are lucky to have family and friends there for support. For people seeking sanctuary in Scotland who don’t have their loved ones around, some of that support comes from Tommy and the team here at Scottish Refugee Council. And I saw just how vital it was for this 21-year-old from Eritrea.

Find out more about our integration service for new refugees.

* In the East African country of Eritrea, young men are being forced into unlimited military conscription, with the threat of detention and torture if they refuse.

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