“I don’t know how I would have survived without the kindness and support of The Solicitors’ Charity”
Financial aid and new wheelchair provided for solicitor during long immigration battle
When solicitor ‘Naomi’ lost her job with a legal firm in Britain in 2017 due to work permit legislation, she was left without any financial support, and she struggled to survive.
Naomi, who lives with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and uses a wheelchair, said: “That was when the problem with my immigration status started. It continued for six years”. Thankfully, The Solicitors’ Charity proved to be a real lifeline for her survival. After contacting the Solicitors’ Benevolent Association (SBA) as it was known in 2018, she received much-needed care and practical support.
“When I contacted the charity, I was treated like a human being and with kindness. I don’t know how I would have survived without their support. I was struggling to pay rent, bills, food, living essentials, and relying on the goodwill of friends who had their own families and expenses.
“The Solicitors’ Charity provided me with essential support and relief in desperate circumstances; they made it possible for me to live while waiting for a decision on my application for UK residence status.”
Naomi’s future is now looking brighter, having recently gained Refugee Status from the Home Office which will enable her to apply for jobs and a more permanent home, as she is currently living in temporary accommodation. Naomi had a happy childhood and bright hopes for her future, but at the age of 13 she started having serious problems with her mobility.
She was misdiagnosed, and it wasn’t until she came to the UK as a young woman that she received a proper diagnosis for MD, a muscle-wasting neurological condition. Despite her poor health, she completed her first Law degree and finished law school in her country of birth, before taking the opportunity to study for her Master’s degree in Britain. She says: “I was happy despite my fear of how I would cope on my own.”
Having completed her Master’s with Distinction, Naomi worked in Compliance for a couple of years and passed the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme to become a Solicitor in England and Wales. She originally was granted residency in the UK as a firm of solicitors sponsored her; but when they ran into problems with their Work Permit Licence, she lost this job.
“I had no right to work and was not eligible for any support, it was a harrowing experience”, she said. “I had made several applications for UK Residence Status, based on the 13 years I had lived in the UK, my personal circumstances and human rights, but it seemed not to matter.
“Eventually, I had to make an application to become a Refugee as I could not imagine how I would cope if I was sent back. I had been able to make progress in the UK despite my disability because of the facilities available here”.
While Naomi was unable to work, she volunteered for a disability charity and at the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Our Services – RAMFEL) to lend support to others in a similar situation. “It made me focus on something else apart from my problems, give something back and help people, it gave me a purpose,” she said.
Using a wheelchair to move around outdoors and to work was challenging – from commuting to accessing office buildings – and her old one had become tired and difficult to manage. In addition to financial support, The Solicitors’ Charity provided her with a new power wheelchair and other aids and adaptations to make her life easier. In October 2023, the Home Office finally granted her Refugee status, giving her Leave to Remain until 2028, after which she can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Naomi is delighted and very relieved to have the UK Government’s support. She says: “I can now work, apply for housing, apply for benefits.
“When I receive my Biometric Residence Permit Card, I will start ‘living’ properly without too much fear and anxiety for the future. I want to thank all the team at The Solicitors’ Charity for their great kindness throughout my ordeal, I don’t know how I would have survived without them”.