Josephine was only 6 years old when both her parents were killed in Angola’s civil war. She is from Cabinda, which is a part of Angola which is seeking independence and has been the scene of a long running conflict as a result.

Josephine cannot remember exactly what happened to her parents, but she thinks they were shot by the police. She was taken in by an orphanage run by a priest after the death of her parents. When Josephine was 14 years old the priest asked her and the other orphans to help him deliver opposition political leaflets. She did this. Not long afterwards, the orphanage was attacked by the police and burnt down. Josephine and the other children escaped with the help of the priest. The priest realised that Josephine was in danger and made arrangements for her to be brought to the UK. The man who brought her abandoned her outside the Home Office in Liverpool.

When Josephine applied for asylum, the Home Office did not believe that she was only 14 years old. Social Services agreed with the Home Office, so Josephine was treated as an adult and put in a house with adult asylum seekers and nobody to look after her. Josephine came to GMIAU for help, and we commissioned an independent assessment of her age. The doctor believed that she was only 14, and as a result Social Services agreed to look after her.

The Home Office granted Josephine permission to stay in the UK until she was 18 years old, but they refused to recognise her as a refugee. They intended to send her back to Angola as soon as she turned 18. With our help, Josephine appealed against this decision. We represented her in court and managed to persuade the judge that to return Josephine to Angola with no family to look after her would leave her vulnerable to homelessness and sexual exploitation. The judge allowed the appeal and Josephine has been granted refugee status. She will now be able to stay in the UK permanently, and has a chance to rebuild her life.