My name is Raj Jalal; I am a 47 year-old doctor and father of three children. On 2nd September 2015, I arrived in the UK, fleeing religious persecution in my home country of Pakistan. Within a few months, I was homeless and helpless… when no one else could offer me so much as shelter for the evening, Emmaus Hertfordshire opened their arms with an abundance of support that I couldn’t quite believe. After 2 years, I have been granted asylum here in the UK and I would like to finally tell my story.
I am an Ahmadi Muslim, an Islamic sect that is widely considered as non-Muslim in Pakistan. Religious persecution is particularly severe in my country; it is actually illegal for me to refer to myself as a Muslim and as such, violent acts against my community are common. When my wife started to speak openly about her faith in public, things got increasingly difficult for us; fearing for her life, she fled to the UK, and I joined later with my children on a Family Reunion Visa. Some time passed and after returning to Pakistan briefly to collect my elderly mother, I arrived back in Leeds only to discover my wife had decided she wanted nothing more to do with me, for reasons I still am unsure of today; I was successful in Pakistan, we had several cars, a lovely home, and I had a great job… stripped of those things in the UK, perhaps I was no longer worthy. Contact with my children was cut, and my appeal for asylum as an individual was denied. Facing deportation back to Pakistan, friends of mine refused to house me and so I found myself penniless and desperate, roaming the streets for shelter. How could this be happening to me?
I stumbled across Red Cross, and while the organisation couldn’t help me without a Visa, one lady took pity on me and helped me find an organisation that could; Emmaus Hertfordshire. She got me an interview to join their community, even ringing me throughout my journey to London, as I was slightly nervous about the prospect of train travel across a country that was still relatively new to me.
The interview was a success; on arriving at the community in St Albans, I got the sense that this was to be the fresh start I desperately needed. After a short time getting used to the Emmaus way of life, my fighting spirit had returned and I was fully focussed on rebuilding my life. The support I received was extraordinary, and relentless; the staff helped me gain access to my children, appeal the decision on my asylum application and most importantly, re-connect with other local Ahamdi Muslims, who had also faced social exclusion. Without the determination and drive of the staff, I’m not sure where I’d be today. When I received news from the Home Office that my application for asylum had been approved, a feeling of excitement and relief washed over me, I thought: ‘Soon I will be able to practise medicine again.’
As I look to the future, I can’t begin to express my gratitude to Emmaus Hertfordshire. To the companions who picked me up when I was down, and to the ceaseless determination of the staff… thank you. I consider myself to be a very lucky man.”