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Opinion

How can a person be illegal?

As part of The Big Issue’s Refugee Special, human trafficking victim Md Mominul Hamid describes his unique perspective on the injustices of the British legal system.

My name is Md Mominul Hamid. I’m an asylum seeker from the north of England and a law student.

Life was very uncertain for me at the beginning of 2017 when I was trafficked to the UK by my ex-in-laws. I still remember those days working in a restaurant as a slave and not having any means to protest or say anything, not getting paid and being fed barely once a day.

I was told by my ex-in-laws that if I tried to do anything then I would lose the chance to see my son and maybe I will vanish from this world. My confinement continued for nearly six months before I was rescued.

Everything was very hard at that time. Leaving my 18-month-old son behind with my exploiters, heading towards the uncertainty of my future, not having anyone beside me.

All my documents and paperwork were confiscated by them. I was illegal. I sometimes still get scared when I see big lorries. When I was trafficked, I was inside a box for 21 hours from France.

My mother was a headteacher. She told me: “Education always distinguishes between good and bad. I want you to be educated and help people like you who have faced injustice. Show them the light of life and guide those who are lost because of their bad past.”

I have tried to pursue my mother’s dream. Back in 2018 through my case, I established the right to higher education for asylum seekers in the UK. Before that there was an automatic study ban on asylum seekers, even if they have been given a scholarship.

The trauma and uncertainty of my life still follow me

Since then, we have managed to persuade some universities to announce scholarships. Since 2019 Northumbria University has five scholarships for asylum seekers, three from Newcastle University. This has changed the lives of 13 asylum seekers, including my own.

After getting a distinction in my foundation year in 2019, I was admitted to the LLB law course at Northumbria University. I found it a bit difficult as most of the grammar in law school is different. There is a lot of reading needed and huge determination to understand the fundamental structure of legal terms. I wish the books were available in my language as well.

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The trauma and uncertainty of my life still follow me. I do not know if I will be able to finish my studies because my claim is still pending and I can be deported at any time by the Home Office.

Being a law student with social justice in my blood, I found lots of inconsistencies in the immigration system in the UK. Victims are left behind, there is very little support for people who seek asylum and victims of slavery and trafficking.

This encourages me to study law and to be their voice. The legal sector of the UK is not really diversified yet and I want to bring changes to this upper-class dominated legal sector so diversity will be a part of the system.

Everybody in the justice system is motivated by the search for justice. There can be tension between the lawmakers and the law interpreters. Doing a law degree is giving me the courage to challenge the behaviour of my housing provider and the conditions other asylum seekers face. I have the confidence to raise my voice, to say this is not right, and the law can step in to correct those situations.

I have now four plans for my future. Plan A, B, C and D. Plan A is to finish my studies. Plan B is to help the potential victims of slavery and trafficking in the UK after my degree. Plan C is to work in the UK legislation-making process.

Plan D is for when I am in my 50s. I want to establish the first international immigration court in the UK to solve disputes about immigration matters under international rules and treaties and became a judge in that court.

I have limited opportunities in my life, but I wish I could get those opportunities to fulfil my goals to pass on to my son.

Read Md’s blog at abirking.com

The Big Issue’s Refugee Special is out now. Get your copy from vendors around the UK. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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