If we opened our eyes, we would see the crisis on our doorstep.
Seeking asylum is not easy. After leaving behind the people and places they know and love, some of the ‘lucky’ asylum seekers make it to the UK. Their problems however do not end there. They cannot legally work in the UK, nor can they claim benefits. The application process is lengthy and during this time applicants are vulnerable but often find little help from our community.
The time has come to respond to their plight, but what do we really know about them?
Whilst our attention in recent weeks has been on asylum seekers in Europe and around the world, there are thousands already here in the UK. The UK received 31,300 new applications for asylum by the end of 2014. There will be many more to come. The vast majority are Muslim and come from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq.
There are many different reasons which have asylum seekers caused them to flee their homeland. Below is just a small snapshot.
‘My father was shot and my sister was raped. I had to escape.’ Fatima, 24 years old.
‘I have Leukemia and the hospitals in my country have been destroyed.’ Ilyas, 42 years old.
‘My children were taken away by the military.’ Safia, 36 years old.
‘I cannot return back. They will kill me.’ Hammad, 18 years old.
‘They treated us like animals!’ Muzammil, 26 years old.
Seeking asylum in the UK is a long and difficult process. There are no guarantees.
During this time asylum seekers are vulnerable and reliant on meagre state support, which for most is just £5 per day. With proposed reforms such as stricter asylum application timescales and proposals to remove the right to appeal when benefits are refused, the situation is going to become even tougher for asylum seekers.
Regardless of whether their asylum applications are eventually successful or not, they remain our responsibility whilst they await their outcome. Special mention is made in the Qur’an of the Ansar (Helpers) who supported the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions when they moved to Madina.
“Those who entered the city and the faith before them love those who flee unto them for refuge, and do not find any want in their breasts for what the emigrants were given; rather they give [them] preference over themselves, even though they [themselves] are in hardship. And whoever is protected from the greed of his own soul - it is those who will be successful.”
(The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 59, Al-Hashr, Verse 9)
Since 2011, National Zakat Foundation (NZF) has received almost 600 applications from asylum seekers and refugees in the UK who are eligible for Zakat. This equates to 20% of our total applications. Sometimes they possess nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
With your Zakat we have supported applicants facing hunger, homelessness, fuel poverty and the inability to pursue legitimate asylum claims.
With your Zakat we have given hope to those who felt invisible, forgotten and worthless.
It is now critical that we extend our support for the many more who are experiencing such difficulties.
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Change the story for someone in need with your Zakat