Schools refuse to teach blind asylum seeker, 7, who fled death threats for life in UK



This is the cramped room where a blind seven-year-old girl who escaped Iran for a better life in the UK has spent five months desperate to go to school.

Satare and her mum Nadia currently live in a hotel room not far from Heathrow Airport in West London after they arrived in the UK in July.

Having made the perilous Channel crossing, the mother and daughter spent several days in detention before they were taken to their current home to wait for their refugee status to be approved.

With just a few pounds a day to live on and no right to work, Nadia and Satare live half lives – never having been on the Tube or into central London, and rarely leaving their small room where they share a bed.

As grateful as Nadia is to have made it to the UK having fled a violent husband who threatened to kill her after she converted to Christianity, she says, her life here is challenging.

Nadia has not been in a British school despite arriving in the UK five months ago

A lack of stimulation and friends is causing a big emotional toll on Satare, who has been completely blind since birth and only recently learned a few words of English.

Despite the best efforts of Care4Calais volunteers to help the young girl, she’s not seen a doctor since arriving, no school will let her join due to her complex needs and she hasn’t had any English lessons.

When the Government’s hugely controversial Nationality and Borders Bill comes into power, people like Nadia and Satare could face a much worse fate when they enter the country.

Some legal experts fear the legislation will give the Government the power to take asylum seekers to a “third country” for processing, cutting them off from the protections the UK offers, potentially for years.

Nadia would have also faced up to four years in prison for entering the country illegally.

When the Mirror visited Nadia and Satare at their hotel home, the bleak realities of waiting for refugee status in the UK were made apparent.

Access to their room is only available around the back of the building and through a door secluded by a large skip.

From here a staircase runs up two floors, each consisting of five or six rooms and with a heavy smell that hangs in the air.

The mum and daughter made the perilous journey across the Channel (file photo)
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The front of the hotel is reserved for paying customers who, unaware of the people living hidden nearby, enjoy wild wedding parties late into the night.

With next to no money or English, Nadia and Satare rarely leave their bedroom which overlooks the hotel car park.

Satare likes to play with educational toys donated by kind Brits, while Nadia WhatsApp messages her friends back home.

The little time they spend in the world outside their hotel is in the company of Care4Calais volunteers, who give up their own time to held asylum seekers.

Satare has become increasingly frustrated by the lack of stimulation and socialising

Recently one volunteer took mum and daughter to a petting zoo, which she paid for out of her own pocket so Satare could interact with the animals.

The lack of stimulation and contact with people who speak their mother-tongue can have an emotionally crippling effect on the people living in asylum hotels.

One volunteer picks up asylum seekers and drives them around the industrial estates of Heathrow and Hounslow.

The chance to get away, however dull the trip, is always gratefully accepted by whoever she offered to drive that day.

Care4Calais, which was set up to assist asylum seekers in the Jungle, now helps around 3,500 people in hotels and barracks across the UK.

A study the organisation published earlier this year found the asylum application system has fallen apart under the last 11 years of Conservative government.

The number of asylum claims which received an initial decision within six months had fallen from 87% in the first half of 2014 to just 20% in the last quarter of 2019.

In 2014 around 25,000 asylum applications were made, compared to 35,000 in 2019.

In May 2019 the Home Office took the decision to scrap its target to process 98% of straightforward cases within six months.

As a result thousands of people are waiting many, many months to have their applications processed, in private accommodation paid for by the British public at great expense.

“The big problem is the delays in the asylum application process,” Clare, a Care 4Calais volunteer, told the Mirror.

“It is ridiculous. All the other problems come from that. We have so many people waiting in contingency accommodation.

Satare was recently taken to a petting zoo by a kind volunteer

Nadia and Satare live in a hotel for asylum seekers in West London

“If the process was sped up they could work, contribute to society and provide for themselves. That’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be accommodated at the taxpayer’s expense.

“Between 70 and 80% do get a positive result and are entitled to protection. Around 20,000 are in contingency accommodation now. The cost of feeding and clothing them is unnecessary when they could be getting on with their lives and contribute to our society.

“An asylum claim is a matter of life and death for these people. When their asylum claims get delayed for months and months, they think something is wrong with it and so we see serious mental health decline due to unnecessary fear and worry.”

She added: “I believe the government wants this narrative that it’s costing too much. It works in their favour, but it could easily be reduced.”

The cost of housing and supporting asylum seekers waiting for their applications to be processed doubled since 2018, to £430million, according to Migration Watch UK.

The anti-immigration charity uses this figure to argue for tighter border controls, although it could be cut significantly if the Government invested in a speedier application process or allowed asylum seekers to work.

Clare called on the British public to offer their time to help asylum seekers currently stuck in the system in the UK.

“We are working in 147 hotels,” she said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is overseeing a tough overhaul of the asylum and immigration system
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“We are beyond maximum capacity. If we don’t take them on then no one else will. We need more volunteers.

“There is so much need. The Government has cut back support to a ridiculous level. I have met refugees in the UK who don’t have clothes or shoes.

“On a weekly basis we see people who are evicted from their accommodation due to admin errors and end up homeless. It is really awful that this is the reality in the UK.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are dealing with unprecedented pressures on the asylum system, but despite this we continue to ensure the accommodation provided is safe, comfortable and secure.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill that we are introducing will deliver the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix the broken asylum system.

“Those awaiting a decision on their asylum application may be eligible for access a range of support, including free NHS healthcare and access to education for children.”

It is not clear what the spokesperson was referring to when they spoke of “unprecedented pressures”, given that applications peaked at 84,132 in 2002.

This is nearly three times more than the 29,456 applications made last year.

To find out how to volunteer, click here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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