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Migrants Speak

At the Mass for Migrants in honour of St Joseph the Worker on 2 May 2016, following the banner procession into the Cathedral, two migrants, one of whom is an asylum seeker, spoke to the congregation about their experience.

The first, Mike, is an asylum seeker who fled Iraq. He spoke eloquently of his situation and the difficulties he faces in his attempts to find security:

'My name is Mike. I am Christian. I am 70 years old. I am from Iraq of Armenian origin. My grandparents were killed in the Armenian Genocide.

'I came to Britain more than 10 years ago to seek asylum. I am still waiting for protection. Only God knows when I will get my status and have a peaceful life again. Life has not been easy since I came. I suffered from bad immigration advice in Britain. They took my money but didn't give me good advice. I was detained for 45 days.

'I have been destitute on many occasions. As I speak in front of you today, I am destitute. I don't think I am luckly. Most of those who sought asylum with me are now British citizens. Of course I am British in my heart.

'I try my best to integrate. I try my best to learn despite my age. I volunteer for the British Red Cross. I volunteer for CitizensUK in Cardiff. I do everything possible to keep myself busy and productive. Yet the wait continues. God knows!

'Before coming to Britain, I had a decent life in Iraq. I had a business which rented cars to foreigners. Life was really good until the agents of Sadam Hussein asked me to give them the names of all the foreigners that rented my cars. They imprisoned me for 10 years, tortured me and put my life in danger. They also found out that I had sisters in Britain. Life went from good to bad in a short time. I thus decided to leave my home in search of another home. A place I could call home.

'I am more at risk now than ever. The Home Office says I can go back to Iraq. I wonder how a Christian is safe in Iraq. No paper. No accommodation. No support. No future. I just live on generous people's support. Despite my age and health I am strong inside. Life goes on.

'My life is full of ups and downs, but one day it may change. God will help me. Please pray for me. Also pray for Iraq.

Following Mike, Susan Benavides spoke passionately about the conditions of domestic workers and the fight that many face in the quest for respect and a living wage:

'My name is Susan Benavides. I am from Ecuador. I am a mother of three daughters. I lived in Spain for 12 years before moving to London in 2009. In London I work as a cleaner.

'As you may know, many Latin Americans in this city work as cleaners. That is partly because of our English language skills. And in many cases, our rights as workers are not respected.

'We are required to work and work, without our opinions being listened to, without being valued or thanked, treated like machines, not like people.

'I have colleagues who work more than one job because life is very expensive in London. I have a friend who works 18 hours a day, not including two hours on the bus.

'That is why I am fighting for the London Living Wage, for a wage that would give us more dignity and independence. And also fighting for all of our rights at work to be respected.

'We are migrants, but we should not allow ourselves to be treated the way we are being treated; we should not keep quiet.

'We want our stories to be heard. Please let us pray for the migrants that are on low wages.'

For further information about the Mass for Migrants, please follow this link.