Isa came to the UK in 2005, seeking a better future, and for the past few years, has been studying in University. A devoted father who had home educated his children for years, Isa had spent the day with his children, taking them to the park, playing with at home until they were tired, before finally tucking them with a bedtime story after a joyful day. The last thing Isa expected at such a time was a loud knock at the door.
Surprised, Isa answered the door only to be greeted by the sight of policemen. His daughters, having been awoken by the loud thuds, seeing their father in handcuffs, realised the situation and began to cry. Isa asked the policemen if he could reassure his daughter, however his request was refused.
After the police took him, his mother frantically called several stations, in the hope of learning the whereabouts of her son, however she was unable to learn anything until days later, when he was finally able to call her himself.
After his release without charge, Isa found himself in disarray; he was now homeless, his wife not wanting any further contact, struggling to find work but was unable to apply for benefits due to his student status. He began approaching different organisations in the hope that someone could throw him the lifeline he desperately needed.
“I was applying to different organisations, all the people treated me directly or indirectly as the enemy of the state, like a leper or something, as soon as they knew I was being investigated, they acted just like – well, they were scared to be dealing with this kind of person.”
As time passed, the separation from his family became increasingly difficult to bear.
“Initially I didn’t see them for a long period of time and next they gave me once a week supervised contact as if I am dangerous, and with a translator and some workers present – all the time”
Speaking about his children, he described the pain of separation: “We definitely had a close relationship -I home-schooled them for three years and we were part of each other’s life - not just like ordinary parents- many parents are close but we were extremely close and together 24/7.
“Everything reminded me of them and I used to eat with them all the time. [After the arrest] I didn’t really eat for a month or two.”
The ordeal of separation from his children coupled with the strain put on him with his gruelling legal situation led to Isa cutting himself off from everyone.
“I started isolating myself and I lost interest in life and I just didn’t have any more motivation and I was struggling against this and mostly acting in ‘auto pilot’. It was generally difficult to socialise and stuff. Before I use to be enthusiastic and I used to joke – I used to be a happy person, but that’s no longer the case.”
It was not just Isa who was affected by the trial; he found his children were also suffering deeply.
“My little one became very withdrawn and especially my older boy who was very supportive, strong and confident; the first time I heard that he was being bullied by someone– that was unheard of, because he never gave a chance to anyone to bully him, he wasn’t aggressive but he didn’t give anyone a chance to bully him. He was being bullied, lots of friends and the class mocked him – there was a lot of stress – it affected him more than anyone.”
Due to his student status, Isa was unable to apply for benefits, and he eventually found himself in the unenviable position of homelessness exacerbated by the harsh winter conditions. When his solicitor reached out to HHUGS, protecting him from the cold and ensuring he had a roof over his head was HHUGS’ immediate priority.
“Alhamdulilah it was a miracle I managed to stay sane during this situation. A part of this miracle, when I got a phone call from HHUGS late one evening, I didn’t have any place to sleep or any food, I had been staying in a cold basement full of pests. I got a call and the man on the phone told me we are from HHUGS, someone had told them about me. They took me out of this basement, got me food vouchers ,monthly rent, transportation - the whole survival package, it was a miracle.”
After promptlyproviding the basic essentials - for a roof over Isa’s head, covering the bills to ensure he was warm, providing vouchers for food to keep him going, as Isa was eager to continue his studies, HHUGS paid for a travel card to allow him to make the journey to university to attend lectures and seminars. Fearing deportation to his home country where he feared facing further persecution after his arrest, but unable to retrieve himself from his predicament - with his current visa he was not allowed to work - HHUGS paid the necessary fees for Isa’s immigration application, to enable him to change his legal status and be able to apply for benefits. Yet despite the fact the months have dragged on, he remainsin limbo, still waiting for an outcome from the Home Office.
The support HHUGS provided transcended far beyond the monetary help. Having found himself isolated and desperate for help, just by having someone to turn to, someone who cared, was enough to change Isa’s entire outlook. And on occasions which can feel the most lonely, Ramadhan and Eid, HHUGS has been there to provide gifts and parties, to offer joy and companionship, to remind Isa, he is not alone;.
“I was in a very low mood and I received a letter once saying (it was from) ‘HHUGS family’ and it was very heart-warming.”
With HHUGS’ continued support, Isa has been able to reintegrate himself into society; pursuing his degree until he graduated.
“This is why I urge people who care to support HHUGS.
“HHUGS has been a miracle until now.
“Only HHUGS cared about me like a family.
” I don’t know anybody, to be honest, who does what HHUGS does.”