When he’s not providing vital support for people in desperate need, Destitution Adviser, Aref Ghorbani, works part time as a classical musician while also studying for a Masters Degree in Global Migration and Social Justice. He told us more about his busy lockdown life.
Tell us a bit about your job

I work with people whose asylum claim has been refused and they no longer have access to financial support or accommodation from the Home Office.

I try to help them get that support back by assisting them to proceed with reapplying or appealing their asylum claim. I’ll put them in touch with a solicitor if they need one and help them register with a GP.

We hope that many of these people will eventually be given leave to remain, but it can be very hard as this could take so many years for so many people.

How has Covid-19 affected your role?

When the pandemic started, face to face appointments stopped, but this doesn’t mean that we stopped providing services. We’ve had to come up with new ways of sharing the most up to date information using online platforms.

I was volunteering with the housing team at Scottish Refugee Council during the first lockdown. Instead of holding information sessions in the office with interpreters, we began recording videos in different languages and making those available on YouTube.

What has been the biggest challenge?

For me, the worst thing is not being able to meet with colleagues and clients, not having that human contact. I was a service user myself, so I know how important it is to meet people face to face. It takes longer to build trust over the phone. Sometimes, working with interpreters can also be really difficult when they are not in the same room as you.

Have there been any positives?

From my experience as a new team member, the most significant thing is that no one is homeless at the moment. Service users are either staying with friends, or in accommodation. In addition, many people are saving time and money because they don’t need to attend face to face appointments in the office.

What’s the best thing about working for Scottish Refugee Council?

The people! The support you get from your colleagues is remarkable. I’ve met so many amazing people and I’m learning a lot from working alongside them. Everyone has their own amazing history and they are all so focused on supporting people and helping them to feel that Scotland is their home.

What has helped you through lockdown?

I have definitely become much better at cooking good Iranian food without burning it! Music has also helped me a lot. When I feel under pressure, I take a five-minute break and I play the Setar [a traditional Persian string instrument].

Find out more about our Destitute Asylum Seeker Service

Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb