Poverty – A changing Reality – Muchi’s story
Many immigrants experience hardship as they are forced to leave their countries behind in search of a better life. Muchi’s story with poverty is complex and nuanced – one that has been shaped by his experiences of financial hardship and having to fend for himself from a very young age.
Having grown in abject poverty, Muchi explained that poverty is not stagnant, but a changing reality that has evolved over the length of his life: “I would say there’s African poverty – which I grew up in -, then there’s European poverty, which I’m experiencing now”. While reflecting on his difficult upbringing, Muchi shared the difficulties of pulling oneself out of poverty while living in an environment shaped by war and crises: “Even if you are a hard worker, you have land, you are willing to work to get something; you’re still going to be poor because there’s no provision from the relevant authorities. They just fail the whole population, and people end up living in abject poverty”.
While Muchi recognised poverty is an important social issue in the United Kingdom, he also noted how the living standards and the poverty experienced here are different to the more extreme levels of poverty experienced in developing countries. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of poverty reduction policies, as well as the existence of social welfare programmes supporting financially distressed people. But although Muchi acknowledged how the UK has a better approach to its poverty-related issues compared to his home country; he expressed how – as a person seeking asylum – he still has no access to support, or the benefit of getting any relief from the government.
More than the absence of financial support, Muchi expressed his frustration over how the system prevents him from being an active and valuable member of society: “They need to realise that whoever is here (as an immigrant), is not here to try and just milk the government funds. No. I personally don’t expect anybody to come and give me cash for free. I would love to be able to get a job – work like everyone else. And pay taxes and move on like everyone else. But that’s not what is happening.” Furthermore, he explained how he feels like he lives in a system that side-lines and marginalises people in his situation. According to Muchi, this is a system designed to put immigrants under such pressure that they are forced to leave the country and go back to the place they had to escape from: “You are not allowed to request public funds, you cannot work… It’s only recently that I can volunteer. So, this is just placing you in a very hard place, so you can suffer in there and hopefully you give up and go back home”.
While the lack of support is a significant obstacle in getting out of poverty, there is an additional barrier that has been haunting him for almost two decades now. As Muchi disclosed, back in 2005 he committed a passport-related offence for which he was shortly sentenced to prison. Muchi admits that it was his own mistake and has faced the repercussions, however the label and burden of this mistake has been tormenting him ever since: “I do have remorse for the offence – but there’s nothing I can do now. I can’t reverse things. For people to keep punishing you for that is how many years now? 17 years ago! That thing still follows you”.
This incident has led him into massive debt, as he cannot access legal aid and trying to regularise his immigration status does not come cheap because of his record. Providing meaningful opportunities for redemption and reintegration is one of the core concepts of rehabilitative interventions, which is why Muchi concludes by stressing the need for a full and fair chance to participate in society: “I’m not saying they should be soft on me – the law is the law. But let the treatment be that of a human being. We all deserve second chances.”
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