The recent Immigration Bill has called into question what role refugees and asylum seekers have in the UK.The impact that refugees and asylum seekers have had on British culture and public life is often seen through a negative light but the success of Olympians, such as Mo Farah who was originally an asylum seeker from Somalia, who came over to Britain is testament to what allowing refugees to enrich civil life can bring. One of Leeds most famous exports to the world was started by refugees. Marks and Spencer’s started by Michael Marks a Jewish refugee from Russia and Thomas Spencer a cashier from Yorkshire.
However, there is a negative perception surrounding asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. A sizable proportion of public opinion appears to favour a harsher approach towards asylum seekers and refugees. In my opinion this is because asylum seekers are not allowed to work. The Refugee, Education, Training and advice service in Leeds says that the unemployment of refugees is six times higher than the UK average. Especially amongst politicians on the right-wing of the spectrum the opinion seems to be that immigrants are taking “British jobs”; this is a mistruth. According to the charity Refugee Education Training Advice Service 55% of asylum seekers who arrive in the city do not speak any English, and there are fears that there is a lack of integration from refugees and fears of isolation.
Solomon arrived in the UK eight years ago from Eritrea after tensions with its larger neighbour Ethiopia escalated into war. Solomon says that Eritrea his garage was very busy as he said: “I would maybe 200 customers every day back in Eritrea but at my garage in Leeds I see only 3 or 4 people a day. Sometimes I do not see anybody”.
However, despite the lack of customers Solomon seems full of hope about the future and says he is happy in the UK. He said: “I like the UK apart from the weather as it is too cold here. But now that I’m working it does not feel as bad as when I did not have a job. It’s a quiet garage at the moment but I have only had it since January. When people her about it they will come. I am very happy at my work”.
It took Solomon eight years before he was able to own a business. Considering his experience of 25 years of ownership of a garage in Eritrea it is hard not to feel that his expertise was wasted during those eight years.