written by Hibiscus staff member

Home, Sweet Home. Many of us are probably familiar with this English idiom, which conveys the satisfaction, serenity, and relief that one’s own home can procure. Home is a place of love, safety and security. Home is usually connected to childhood memories or feelings and emotions deeply rooted in our hearts. That is why we can feel at home anywhere. The question to be asked is, “How can we make the country we live in a sweet home for all?”

Various reasons, such as political instability, conflicts and wars, religious beliefs, trafficking and exploitation, amongst other reasons, force people to be displaced and migrate to a new country, leaving behind the warmth and comfort of homes they once knew.  However, when they arrive in this new country they are confronted with many challenges. Speaking from my experience, I was trafficked and brought to the UK at a young age, with only one dream in my heart: to escape from my perpetrators and find solace in this new country. Unfortunately, things were not that easy, and I was feeling worthless and hopeless. I struggled with loneliness, learning a new language, different culture and strange weather, and people’s indifference. But most challenging of all, an immigration system that does not treat people as human beings.

Reflecting on this, things would have been different if only a few systemic factors had been put in place. What happened to me, and many other refugees, is shaped by political forces that can be changed for the better. Legislation such as the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and the Safety of Rwanda Act 2024 have contributed to this hostile environment which ostracises and criminalises many asylum seekers and refugees. For instance, victims and survivors of human trafficking who have been forced to enter the UK via highly unsafe and dangerous routes are particularly harmed by these policies as they are often prosecuted and criminalised without being supported, making it difficult for them to consider the UK a safe home.

In addition to this, Black and minoritised migrant women continue to face several barriers to making a home for themselves in the UK. Firstly, the decline in available legal aid solicitors has made it difficult for Black and minoritised migrant women seeking asylum to access legal advice, assistance and representation – even when referrals are successful. It can take months to find a solicitor, which means women cannot fight for their cases and access justice. As a result of this, women may miss deadlines or spend longer in difficult circumstances they have been forced into, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected and affecting their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

At Hibiscus, we support women who have to wait long periods of time for decisions to be made on their cases. This puts their lives in limbo, with minimal financial support, no access to work, and unsuitable NASS accommodation, making the process very stressful and impossible for them to carry on with a normal life. With the No Recourse to Public Funds condition attached to their status and restrictions to work, many Black and minoritised migrant women experience severe difficulties accessing jobs and welfare benefits, which puts them at risk of destitution, as they are unable to afford basic necessities such as food, clothes, school materials, toiletries, and transport. These are just a few examples of the systemic barriers facing migrant women who are trying to make a home for themselves in the UK.

On the bright side, there are many organisations, such as Hibiscus whose aim is to fight for social justice and support Black and minoritised migrant women who have been in contact with the immigration and criminal justice systems. We work to campaign for the dismantling of systemic barriers and institutional racism in an effort to ensure migrant women are able to make a home for themselves in the UK and feel safe once and for all. Working towards this will help make the UK a more appealing place for them to thrive and find a real home. Let us all, individually or collectively, be more welcoming toward migrants this year. This can be achieved through simple acts of kindness, such as smiling at a person on the street, speaking up against the hostile environment, and showing solidarity with those who fight against inhumane immigration legislation, allowing everybody to create and find a new home.