FeaturesGrace

When I was about 14 I was brought to the UK by a relative. We had visitor’s visas and I thought we were going on holiday. Instead I was left with a large Ghanaian family I’d never met and ended up cleaning, cooking and looking after their children. I wasn’t paid, slept in the same beds as the children and just got on with it. I had no idea then I was a subject of trafficking.

About two years later, and after being passed to two other families, I worked out this wasn’t right and I left, moving in with a friend I had met. From there I made my way to Manchester and eventually met the father of my daughter through the local church. That relationship was cut short when he was deported back to Ghana. I have no contact with him now.

The Immigration Aid Unit supported me the whole way, it was like having an ally

By my early 20s I was a single mum with no immigration status living off the generosity of friends and acquaintances. An ‘illegal immigrant’ I suppose, with no prospects. I felt like an outsider who didn’t belong.

When I first went to the Immigration Aid Unit I didn’t get there early enough. By 7.30 in the morning there was already a lot of people waiting outside. They took my number and called me back in for an appointment.

I was advised to wait until my daughter was seven and then apply for her status under the European Human Rights Act. We did that but she was refused and we made an appeal. Nadia was so helpful. She has a big smile which assures you she is going to do her best for you. I was happy to put my trust in her but then, I had no option.

The appeal went to court, to the tribunal. Nadia won legal aid for me and appointed a barrister to take my case. The first time in court was a bit scary. I thought I would be put in a box and have to swear on the bible but it’s not like that at all.

There were more than ten hearings that lasted over a year, and I went to every one. The Immigration Aid Unit supported me the whole way, it was like having an ally. Eventually it was recommended that my daughter and I be given leave to remain.

It felt more of a relief when I eventually heard the news, I wasn’t excited like I’d imagined. But now I can work and I can study to be a special needs teaching assistant which is what I’ve dreamed of doing. My ‘leave’ is only temporary so I have to save up to pay for the next application fee in two years, which is a worry.

If it wasn’t for the Immigration Aid Unit I can’t imagine what I’d have done. I’d recommend them to anyone in a similar situation to mine. Now I feel part of this country. I can plan my future and I can start to contribute.