A difficult journey, but a new beginning for Meli Tati

By James Vukmirovic

Imagine you take a plane journey with an agent and when you arrive at your destination, they leave you with the words “I’ve done my job, now you need to do whatever you need to do to find something”.

That’s what happened to Meli Tati.

At the age of 45, she found herself leaving her family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after being exposed to danger and fearing death.

In Britain, she was moved around, imprisoned and given accommodations and she is now on the road to doing what she needs to do to become a French teacher.

Her story of how she got to this stage is a compelling one.

Meli had graduated from the University of Kinshasa with a degree in Political Science and feels getting this degree may have been the start of the problems she began to face in her life.

She said: “I came to the UK because I was living in a situation where there was persecution from my government.

“I’ve been to the University and been instructed on how things must be normally, and things didn’t go the way I was told they should go, so you start to revolt and you start demonstrating against the system.”

Since getting her refugee status, Meli has received help and support from ACH in all aspects of her life, from applying for benefits and securing council housing to improving her work experience prospects as a volunteer support worker.

“When I was living in DR Congo, my main line of work was admin,” she said.

Meli talks about her experiences and her hopes for the future

“I worked as a secretary and a shop manager, also a Human rights education officer, which I enjoyed very much.

“Once I moved over here, I knew that I had to adapt myself and find out if my skills and experience were transferrable to my new place and then I had to look for some work, but I saw that my skills weren’t transferrable and that I would need to do something here to adapt myself to my new place.”

She added: “I decided to do Health and Social care, which I did last year at the college and now I’ve got myself a job as a Support Worker.”

In addition, Meli has also applied for university courses and is accepted to study French Language in one of our universities, which she hopes will lead her to her dream job as a French teacher.

But it has been a long journey to get to a place where she can work.

After leaving DR Congo and spending a week in neighbouring Angola, Meli flew to London, but was abandoned by an agent and left to fend for herself, eventually applying for asylum with the Home Office.

Meli then found herself being detained for about three weeks, with no explanation given as to why she was put into detention, an experience that she looks back on with frustration.

“At the end, they didn’t tell me why they had put me in detention, which made me more scared, more frustrated. It wasn’t a good experience because there were no reasons as to why they put me into detention, because I was just seeking asylum,” she said.

After she had been moved around by The Home Office through National Asylum Seeker Support (NASS) , Meli settled in Wolverhampton while going through the process of getting her papers to stay in the UK, but success with that brought more hardship as she would need to leave her accommodation when the contract with NASS ended. This was where ACH came into her life.

She said: “It became very tough for me and I didn’t know where to go or what to do, but that is where ACH came in. They were like my family and they helped me, giving me accommodation that I had for one year, and they give me everything I need, like a family.”

Meli, with ACH representatives Laura Maton (left) and Rose Adderley (right).

Meli looks forward to the day when she can see her family again and hopes they will come over one day, but feels and knows she cannot go back to DR Congo in the current climate.

“DR Congo is my country and always will be my country,” she said.

“I miss my family, I miss my mum, but if I go back now, I don’t know if I would ever come back alive. I could only go back if I was able to feel safe there.

“The system there is not good and while President Kabila says he will give up the presidency and make someone else the president, politically, I don’t think the system would change, I think it would be the same system.”

To learn more about ACH and the work they do, click on this link: ACH
To learn more about Asylum seekers and the issues they face, click on this link: Refugee Council