The fight to remain in the UK is a long and arduous process, and for Abiola it took over seven years to gain the security she had been fighting for on behalf of her husband and two children. During that time she was pushed from pillar to post before finally finding the help she needed at the Cardinal Hume Centre. Abiola moved to the UK in 2006, along with her husband who had been granted a student visa. They both took up part-time work and in 2007 had their first child. Abiola's husband was working towards qualifications which would allow them to extend their visa past its May 2008 expiry. Unfortunately, at the start of 2008, Abiola's husband was arrested for working more hours than his visa permitted, and both of their passports were seized. Being relatively new to the country neither Abiola nor her husband knew what their rights were, and believing they were in the wrong were unsure what to do. They decided to submit their extension application anyway, but in 2010 it was rejected.
The couple chose to appeal the decision and approached a number of solicitors with their case. They were shocked by the cost of the fees, with some solicitors charging £250 just to read their file, and that was before any consultation or agreement to take on their case. Unsure how else to progress they committed to paying a solicitor. However, the lawyers they worked with constantly kept them in the dark; and both Abiola and her husband became increasingly sure that they weren't putting the work into their case that was needed: We didn't know anything about the law here. They just took the money we had and made a mess of our application, the things they were meant to argue in the courts they didn't argue.
Sadly, their fears were confirmed in 2011 when their case was dismissed. Abiola felt like giving up. All of their money had gone towards their legal fees, and they now had no right to work and no right to access public funds. Then in 2012 she found out she was pregnant again. With news of a new baby on the way things went from bad to worse. Abiola filed another application to remain, but again it was refused. At her lowest points she considered abortion and taking her own life. She and her husband were forced to rely on money given to them by friends and family, and for two years they lived on as little as £15 a week, with occasional help from Abiola's brother to help cover their rent.
Between 2013 and 2014 Abiola approached four charities looking for help, but each one referred her to another and the wait times for appointments were disheartening, with one charity's next available appointment being six months away. She began to despair; it felt like no one could help her.
Her eldest daughter was approaching her seventh birthday, and her youngest was just three months old. Both of her children had been living in poverty their whole lives. Abiola finally received help from a migrant children's charity who advised that she seek help from social services for her children. They sent a letter to social services on her behalf, and recommended that she get in touch with the Cardinal Hume Centre about her and her husband's immigration status. In May 2014 Abiola found her way to the Cardinal Hume Centre, and was given an appointment with Philp, one of the Centre's Immigration advisors. From the outset Philip was upfront with Abiola and her husband, warning them about the length of time their application could take and also the possibility that the Home Office would refuse to waive the application fee. Philip submitted their application in July 2014 and they received news that it could take up to six months before a decision was reached.
He talked them through each step of the process, helping to clarify anything they might be uncertain about, and for the first time in seven years Abiola felt like she had someone on her side who could really make a difference. Philip fought hard for them between July 2014 and April 2015, helping them through set-backs with their application and making sure they were updated at all times. Ten months after their initial meeting with Philip, on 7th April 2015, Abiola and her family finally received confirmation of their right to remain in the UK and were shocked to have achieved what they had been waiting for for so long: I felt so happy, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I got so much more help and information from the Centre's solicitors than the solicitors who you pay so much money to. Philip was professional and he knew what he was doing. He carried us along and always gave detailed explanations when required. He deserves a raise, a promotion, he has earned it! God bless you Philip and everyone that works at the Cardinal Hume Centre. A stock image has been used.