"Nobody chooses to be a refugee" - Refugee Council
May 31, 2024

“Nobody chooses to be a refugee”

Ruba, a refugee from Sierra Leone, shared his story through our most recent fundraising campaign focused on raising awareness about refugees facing destitution. He talks about the challenges he faced in the asylum system and his passion for advocating for others in the same situation.

Fleeing Sierra Leone because his life was at risk, Ruba applied for asylum in the UK. At some points he couldn’t afford to eat, and the accommodation he was given was often unsuitable for someone living with sight loss. When he was finally recognised as a refugee, an eviction notice shortly followed. Ruba risked becoming homeless as his shelter was taken away. Through our Destitution Service we supported Ruba to rebuild his life in safety in the UK.

Ruba, disability activist and refugee Ruba, disability activist and refugee

My name is Ruba, I am from Sierra Leone, and I am a refugee who is blind. I’m among the few disabled people who were able to acquire an education at home, and so I believe it’s important to use my voice to make the world a better place. For years, I was very active in politics and campaigned for the rights of disabled people. Unfortunately, when a new government came to power in 2018, that all changed.

I was well-known in my country as a disability activist, and for this reason, I was seen as someone who may talk against the new Sierra Leonean government. I have served my country both in the civil and public sector as a disability activist. I was easy to identify. This made the environment unsafe for me. My house was attacked, and there was a lot of intimidation. The government was prepared to attack, or even kill people known for speaking out against them. It wasn’t safe. My family was threatened, too.

The Refugee Council has been a lifeline to me.

The Refugee Council has been a lifeline to me. Many more people desperately need the help I got. I count myself lucky, because I spoke enough English to be able to find and ask for help. Many refugees in the UK are not so lucky. I want to use this opportunity to support more people in similar situations as I was in.

Once I was recognised as a refugee I received an eviction notice and had to leave my asylum accommodation. Kellie, a Destitution Coordinator at the Refugee Council, supported me throughout, she helped me with food vouchers so I would have enough to eat. She put me onto their counselling programme, and it brought such joy to my life to have someone to talk to regularly. She helped me get legal support, a housing solicitor who worked with the Home Office to find me an accessible place to live.

Refugees facing destitution need your support

Nobody deserves to go hungry or sleep on the streets. Please support refugees like Ruba to rebuild their lives.

Donate now

For all my adulthood, I have been somebody who has advocated for people. So being in a situation where the Refugee Council had to advocate for me, being voiceless, it was something very hard for me to go through. 

The Refugee Council played a vital role in providing support to me and many others. I know this could never have been possible if people had not been able to donate. I like that I can contribute by sharing my story so that the Refugee Council continues with its work.

Ruba is an advocate for refugee and disability rights.