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Bangladeshi asylum seeker overcomes painful ordeal to pursue UK law career



LONDON

Mominul Hamid, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi national, has defied many odds in his life. 

He was trafficked first to France and then into the UK by his former in-laws and forced to work in their restaurant without any pay.

“I was confined for around six months before I was rescued,” Hamid, now a prominent community activist, told Anadolu.

Hamid’s ordeal and the injustices he faced have pushed him to pursue an education in the field of law.

Currently living in Newcastle, Hamid is studying law on a scholarship at Northumbria University and aims to become a barrister by next year.

“My mum was a head teacher at a school back in Bangladesh, and she told me the one thing that can lift you up is education. These are the things which nobody can take away from you,” he said.

Despite his successes, Hamid still faces a massive challenge in his life in the UK: his application for asylum has been pending for over five years now, a case that serves as an indictment of Britain’s complex and tedious asylum process.

As World Refugee Day is celebrated across the globe on June 20 and the UK marks Refugee Week through this week, the spotlight is firmly on the country’s policies on migration and asylum seekers.

It has recently come up with two proposals on the issue, the Illegal Migration Bill and the Rwanda Plan, which have both drawn fierce criticism from human rights organizations and refugee advocates, who argue that they violate international law and the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.

The UK’s policies on tackling irregular migration have also been widely criticized for “scapegoating migrants,” but the government remains adamant that they are the need of the hour.   

‘All for my son’

By Hamid’s own admission, his story is “a bit strange.”

He married his wife, a British national, in Portugal in 2017 before she moved to the UK and gave birth to their son.

Hamid said his desire and desperation to see his son was what his former in-laws exploited.

They had him take an illegal route to France, handing him over to a gang of traffickers. After spending some time there, he was then smuggled into the UK, where his in-laws took away all his money and documents.

“You may ask: ‘Why did you take this horrible journey?’ Because my son was born here, he is British and after he was born, I hadn’t seen him,” said Hamid.

“And I didn’t have any way to come and see him other than taking this journey, which was arranged by my ex-father-in-law.”

He was eventually rescued by police and supported by an anti-trafficking charity.

He applied to university in 2018 and got accepted on a scholarship, but was barred because of the Home Office’s “study ban” on asylum seekers.

He challenged the decision and managed to get it overturned, but had lost his scholarship by that time.

However, Hamid’s legal woes did not end at that point, as the police stopped an investigation against his former in-laws.

“That was an injustice in my point of view. It was so unjust that I felt that I should study law, and in the future, I will help people like me,” he said. 

Community activism

Apart from his education, Hamid is also an award-winning community activist involved in various social welfare campaigns with various organizations.

He has made it a point to work specifically on campaigns to raise awareness about how measures like the Illegal Migration Bill and Rwanda Plan would impact migrants and asylum seekers.

“As a person with a lived experience … I think it’s really devastating,” he said.

About his own asylum claim, he said more delays are likely because of the “huge backlog” of cases.

“Bearing in mind that I’ve got a British child here, you can see how the system is literally broken. It has to be resolved. A lot of people are waiting for nothing,” said Hamid.

“I have so many restrictions. I can’t work, I can’t do other stuff that any normal person can do. I would say that ending the backlog and talking to people like me to create new refugee-friendly legislation will be much better for this country going forward.”

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