Amir is one of our brilliant volunteers at the InterAction Drop-in, and arrived in the UK in November 2018 after escaping persecution in Iran.

We chatted to him for our blog back in May, so we thought it would be good to check in and see how he’s doing. We grabbed a cuppa with Amir at the West End Library Drop-in, and were really excited to find out that after a nerve-wracking wait he had some incredibly positive news about his claim for asylum in the UK.

I was granted my refugee status on the 29th August and it felt really good. I came to UK in November 2018, and right up until August I didn’t hear anything about my asylum claim interview, and then I finally got one for the 14th August.

It felt like a long time to wait, as for Iranians it usually only takes 3-4 months to get an interview. My friends all got their interviews before me and I was still waiting, it was really difficult.

What happens when you get your refugee status?

It’s harder than you think and there’s a lot of things to sort out. Paperwork, going to appointments, opening bank accounts, trying to find a place to live – you only get 28 days to leave your shared accommodation.

Nobody starts that process for you, nobody tells you that you have to start this process on your own. I was lucky that I know English and the people at the InterAction Drop-in helped me, so I started it sooner and got my ID and bank account sorted.

I knew the process because I’d already helped my friends with it. I applied for Universal Credit, and did the job centre appointments too.

How did the Interaction Drop-in help you?

It was really good that I knew about the Drop-in and that I was volunteering here, because it meant I knew a lot of people working for the council and other organisations. The Drop-in has been really helpful and gave me a head-start.

When someone gets their Refugee Status, there can be a big gap between someone’s ASPEN card* being cut and their Universal Credit starting – sometimes a few months.

I’ve been lucky, I will only have a gap of 6 days which is really good for me. Other people have to get a loan so they can cover their bills, but then they have to pay it back every month which is really difficult for them.

Have you got somewhere new to live yet?

Not yet but I will hopefully start looking at properties soon so I can start bidding for them. If I can’t get a place sorted in time, I’ll get a place in a hostel in the city and wait until somewhere suitable comes up.

I really want to live in Byker, I love it there, it’s quiet and full of local people. That’s exactly what I want – Byker is my corner of Newcastle!

What about your future plans?

Some of Amir's tattoo designs

Some of Amir’s tattoo designs

Once I’m settled, I’d like to study graphics at university and I dream of being a freelance Tattoo Artist. I’m in the process of working with my Job Centre Coach and Project North East to make a business plan – then I can become self-employed.

I love to travel so it would be great to go to other cities and do tattoos for people. I’d love that. It’s an exciting time for me.

*The ASPEN card is a debit card issued to Asylum Seekers to help pay for food, clothing and toiletries. Each person gets £37.75 per week

If you’d like to volunteer at our InterAction Drop-in please get in touch at [email protected]
Find out more about our Drop-ins here