Waiting isn’t Working – Teem's Story


Every year, people are forced to flee their homes due to war or violence. Some people come to the UK to find safety and claim asylum. While they are waiting for the government to make a decision on their claim, they aren’t allowed to work. 

The current system is unfair – people can wait years for a decision, unable to work in all that time. It pushes people into poverty and isolation – it just doesn’t make sense! 

But don’t just take our word for it. Take Teem’s. Teem is an expert by experience – he’s lived through the asylum process and knows how important it is to give people seeking asylum the right to work. He shares his story and his hope for the campaign:


Hi everyone, I’m Teem! 

There’s a lot going on at the moment isn’t there! But, I wanted to let you know about the Lift the Ban campaign I’m involved in, as people seeking asylum are having an especially rough time at the moment. I went through the asylum process myself and I know the pain and the feeling of not having food, money for the bus or my phone bill, and of not having the right to work. I can’t imagine how much harder it must all feel right now.

With or without the pandemic, waiting for your asylum claim to be processed can be a sad and difficult time. I had to wait over two-and-a-half years for the home office to make a decision and during that time I was barred from having a job, unable to earn a living or continue my career.

It’s hard to describe how difficult it was. It’s not just the lack of money - having to rely on £5.39 a day from the Home Office - it hurt my pride, it made me feel less human. I so badly wanted to be able to continue building my career, I always loved business management, and had so much experience in the field from the 15 years I had been here in the UK before I was forced claim asylum. But the current rules meant I had to put everything on hold for years while my asylum claim was processed, unable to take any job offered to me during this time because of the restrictions imposed.

Now that I’ve finally got refugee status and I’m able to work, I’ve set up my own small fashion brand. During the lockdown I’ve been making masks and scrubs for the NHS. I’ve also been making masks for a hostel for people seeking asylum - it’s one small way I’ve been able to help. The masks are fun to make, although I have to be careful, I’ve found myself making them until four in the morning!

I’m also involved in the Lift the Ban coalition which is a group of over 200 organisations campaigning to change the rules so people seeking asylum have the right to work in the UK. As part of the campaign I got to go to Parliament last year, to talk to MPs and Peers about my life in Britain. It was there that I saw the power of the campaign. We met MPs and Peers from all political parties. They're aware of how much support our campaign to give people seeking asylum the right to work has got.

So, let’s keep going! Let’s keep up the pressure because I think we can win. I could see that as I told politicians what had happened to me. They understood why things need to change; and why lifting the ban will be good for people like me, good for business and good for society. 

I don’t want any other people seeking asylum to feel dehumanised, or to go through the depressing process that I went through. We need to Lift the Ban.

Take Action Now 

Stand with Teem and join us in calling on our Government to Lift the Ban. Click here to add your voice to the campaign to help make life a little sweeter for people seeking asylum in the UK.