A mother who was separated from her six children; her fight against deportation and her struggle to rebuild severed family ties.
THE PAIN OF SEPARATION
During the almost 3 years I was in prison, I only saw my mother twice. She simply couldn’t manage coordinating the children and being able to travel to come and see me, given her health. It was the hardest thing and speaking to her on the phone was painful, as she would simply cry throughout the calls. Instead my sister made a huge effort to bring my children to come and see me, even taking time off work to be available.
The prison was about an hour away from where my mother and children lived. Visits mean everything when you are in prison, and the first time my family came and visited me was after 9 days. When I saw them booking themselves in, I just started crying. It was really difficult the first time; when they’re leaving, you just don’t want the time to end. You know you’re going to have to go back to your empty cell alone.
Spending Ramadhan and Eid in prison was the most difficult. The other Muslim female prisoners and I would become very emotional. It was difficult not to have family around, food, dress up together, have a laugh- all the normal things families do during Eid. Ramadhan was even harder because you would have iftar alone in your cell. I come from a big family and had never experienced having meals alone, especially sitting on your own with a locked door.
My health continued to decline as my episodes of pancreatitis continued in prison. During my first episode of pancreatitis in prison, I was taken to hospital and cuffed to an officer for 6 days. This included when I was going to the toilet, I was still cuffed on a long chain and they are standing outside. This was really difficult. When I first went into prison, I was on really strong medication which was taken away from me. Because of this, I didn’t sleep for a whole week. I would walk up and down my cell, going crazy with worry.
My greatest worry was for my children, their safety and my mum’s health. There was one night when I was touching my head and I felt a really big bald patch. I used to think I was a strong person, but now I realised there’s physical signs that you’re not coping, you are in constant stress and it begins to show.
What kept me strong during those times was the knowledge that Allah tests those that He loves. So I tried to have patience and made lots of du’a. I would try to increase in my gratitude and remind myself I would rather be tested in this dunya than in the hereafter.
A LIFE OF UNCERTAINTY
I have been classed as a foreign national because I don’t have a British passport. I have been in this country for 40 years, but despite that I was put on the deportation list when my release date was decided and so I had to appeal against that. My mum was so worried I would be released and then deported immediately without seeing my children. Because of this uncertainty, she didn’t want to say much to the children. But three years on, I’m still here alhamdulillah.
On the day of my release, I wasn’t allowed to return back to my hometown but was instead taken to a hostel which was away from where I lived. I had to sign on at the hostel 4 times a day and I was also on an electronic tag.
I had great difficulty finding employment. In the three years I’ve been out, I’ve only had one job working in a fast food takeaway restaurant. I had to leave there after 6 months because of Islamophobic treatment. Because I’m on restricted leave and my stay in the UK has been revoked, I am not allowed any public funds, which means I am unable to claim benefits.
COME TOGETHER FOR HHUGS
Before my situation, I hadn’t ever heard of HHUGS before. One of the sisters from HHUGS managed to get my number and messaged me. She explained what they do and what kind of help they can provide. The first time I really felt the benefit of HHUGS was when I was incarcerated and they began to support my mum. They provided monthly food vouchers, paid the bills and contributions to the rent. They helped too with debt repayments. When Winter arrived, HHUGS would send extra duvets, heaters, clothing for each child, clothing vouchers as well as monthly gas and electricity bill vouchers.
Alhamdulillah HHUGS is helping me, their support means I can keep a roof over my head, pay my council tax and cover my grocery expenses with monthly shopping vouchers. It is difficult for my family to support me financially as they don’t have much themselves; my mother is elderly, doesn’t work and is preoccupied with my children. I have a keyworker who is always approachable and sensitive, she made it clear I could go to her whenever I need and she would always be there. They have helped us so much, by the will of Allah.
It is so important for the community to learn about HHUGS and support them in whichever way they can. For some of us ex-prisoners, it can be difficult to find a job, or where some of us are on the deportation list, which makes HHUGS work more necessary than ever. I would strongly suggest if anybody wants to give charity, they should do so through HHUGS because nobody else is doing work like them. Because of the help we get from the brothers and sisters in the community, we have a foundation to rebuild our lives and families.
HHUGS came and picked me up at a time when I really thought I would end up sitting outside a branch of Tesco begging. Once I left the hostel, I feared I would wind up homeless and it was exactly then when HHUGS came and stood by me with the support I needed. If you truly want to store great reward for your aakhirah, come together to support HHUGS in every way you possibly can insha’Allah.