My name is Ali Martin, I came from Sierra Leone. I worked in development for about fifteen years before I left for the UK.
I’m a blind person. I’m among the few disabled people who was able to acquire education, and to use that education to transform the lives of other disabled people. I worked to seek the welfare and interests of blind people. I also taught in a school for the blind and mainstream secondary school, I was teaching government and social studies.
Because of my work as a disability human rights advocate, I received a presidential appointment by the then President of Sierra Leone, as regional commissioner for the Northern Region, on the National Commission for Persons with Disability.
We campaigned for the elections, I was active in politics, but we lost the election in 2018. Unfortunately, the government which came to power became very ruthless, they started to harass and oppress the opposition. This is what caused me to leave the country. Because of the harassment, extra judicial killings, all the rest, that caused me not to return, because I was not safe.
I sought asylum in 2019. There was a time when I was almost homeless. It was very difficult for me. The Home Office would not give me accommodation. It was difficult because according to Social Services I had no recourse to public funds. It was a struggle. I had no money to eat, nothing. I had to contact Refugee Council. Refugee Council were so instrumental in finding a solicitor for me, and giving me money.
It was very challenging. It was so stressful. My place flooded. I had an electricity problem, the place was cold, I couldn’t bathe, it was very challenging.
Not every disabled person like me has been fortunate to access help from Refugee Council. Things could have been worse if I did not have any education. Those who are not educated at all – how are they able to cope?
I went to the court, I won my appeal, I got my decision. But the Home Office notified me that I should leave the premises. I would be homeless.
It has been very tough and challenging. You have to think of what’s happening at home. Then when you think you are safe now, you can only think of your family, you still have to think of shelter, food, you know, it was really tough.
I just want the UK people to continue to be welcoming to asylum seekers. I know that at this moment everybody is stressed, but don’t use that to demonise all asylum seekers. There’s a lot of stuff happening out there. The UK society has been very nice, very supportive. There are lots of foodbanks out there, because of the UK people. The work the Refugee Council and other organisations are doing is effective, let them continue to support the Refugee Council.