I have four children and my mother also lives close by. Before we came here, our life was very, very good and the children were in a good school. I had a career as an engineer. Suddenly everything changed. I had to keep my children safe and we had no choice but to leave and come here. It’s not easy to do.

In the asylum housing there were many restrictions and the organisation had the keys and used to come in when I was out. I didn’t feel safe or have privacy. We were sitting waiting and worrying if we would be accepted. I put on 10kg in weight because I was eating so much due to the stress. My children didn’t tell people at school they were asylum seekers because they were scared of being bullied and racism. My mum was crying all the time and fearful. We didn’t know if we would be accepted as refugees.

Our case took a long time. I had no money, so it was vital that the service was free of charge. I spent nights and nights writing things to try to get our case right. Our solicitor was always very honest and realistic. Whenever I met her I felt relieved that someone was looking after me who is confident about what she is doing. I felt that she had my back. She was supportive and caring of my whole family, whilst very professional and not like a friend. She made a big difference, none of us will ever forget her. Because it took a long time, people were telling me to change solicitor but I knew it wasn’t because of her or what she was doing, it was the system. Inside I believed that she could take me to a point where I would be happy.

I couldn’t talk to my children or mum as they were already worried and I didn’t want to share my case with anyone else here, it was just my solicitor. We shared everything though our emails. She always replied and was there. I was alone as a woman and it was necessary to have someone to share with.

Life has totally changed for us all since we received our Leave to Remain. I am less stressed and feel safe. We are living in a good house, where I am the only person with the keys – I have privacy and control. Now I can plan for mine and the children’s future. I am volunteering as an interpreter at a local refugee centre and studying at college. I am able to live with the money we receive, so I feel secure. I want to work, so I am preparing my CV and will apply for jobs and hopefully return to engineering.

 My children have been able to relax and join in locally. They have friends round to play and for birthday parties, and are much more confident. They are doing well. I still worry about whether my eldest child will ever forget the trauma, she was the most affected by what happened, but things are shifting slowly.

It has made a big difference to my mum. She has her own little flat near here, which she was very happy to decorate and make hers. I see her every day and help her as she has a disability. We shop and cook together. We are both happy that the children don’t have to go back to Iraq.

We have good and kind neighbours, both British and from other countries, and friends in the town that we met through the refugee support project. We don’t have any problems just here where we live, but I do sometimes experience racism from strangers when I’m out and I know it happens to others. I feel really upset and angry but I don’t react, that’s not my personality. But we also have good experiences so I don’t tell my children as I don’t want this to be in their minds.

We are all settled and happy. The most important thing is that I brought my children to a safe country. I had the courage to do this, thank God.