Refugee Week: Engineer shares how he has found sanctuary in Halifax and is thankful for UK's compassion

Hassan Elhourani has made a life for himself and his family in Halifax since fleeing here from The United Arab Emirates (UAE) - but he consideres himself one of the lucky ones.

By sarah fitton
Friday, 17th June 2022, 12:55 pm

The 33-year-old knows people who have come here fleeing war-torn countries and persecution only to be left in limbo for 18 months with no review of their case, and others who have been put in prison for no apparent reason.

"I remember how the officers were who were dealing with me when I arrived," he said. "They were so kind and professional.

"I was lucky that some people were hearing me. If people weren't as understanding, I would still be struggling now."

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Hassan Elhourani

Hassan came to the UK in 2019 from The UAE after being forced out of the country.

He was born there but because his parents had moved to The UAE from Palestine, he was never recognised as a citizen.

He grew up there, achieved a degree in chemical engineering and was working as a production manager when he was told he, his wife and six-month-old son would have to leave.

Hassan only had Egyptian travel document which allowed him to travel to very few places - not even Egypt or Palestine.

Some of the team from St Augustine's Centre in Halifax

He kept requesting extensions to his residence but he knew that if he was stopped for even a minor traffic offence and it was discovered he was not supposed to be in the country, he would be sent to jail.

The UK was one of very few places he could go so the family came her on what was supposed to be a visitor's visa.

When they arrived, Hassan he explained his situation to the immigration team at Heathrow and was told they would need to apply for asylum.

He said the people who helped him were kind, and he was given access to a work coach who listened to him when he said what courses he would need to train to work as an engineer in this country.

Although he had his degree and years of experience, Hassan needed to make sure he was qualified in UK engineering regulations.

He completed an impressive 14 courses in just nine months.

He started work as Activities Manager at St Augustine's Centre in Halifax but said he missed his field so left to become a production manager at one of the largest chemical manufacturing firms in the country.

He said trying to seek refuge in the UK has become much tougher since he arrived here.

The Nationality and Borders Bill became law earlier this year and includes allowing the Government to send people who it deems have arrived seeking sanctuary via an unsanctioned route to Rwanda. Even if their asylum claim is approved, they will only be entitled to remain in Rwanda. Returning to the UK will not be an option.

St Augustine's Centre is a charity in Halifax which offers specialist support for people like Hassan forced to flee their home countries through no fault of their own.

A spokesperson for the centre said: "We are seeing first-hand the devastating impacts which the hostile environment and the cruel Rwanda scheme are having on the refugees and people seeking asylum which we support. However, we are continually galvanised by heart-warming displays of welcome throughout Calderdale that show so clearly that this policy does not reflect who we are.

"We will continue to take a stand and do our best to make Britain a place where people fleeing war and persecution are safe and welcome.

"Solidarity is a beautiful and powerful thing – we hope you will join us in celebrating the contribution refugees bring to our community during Refugee Week."

The charity and other organisations are holding a host of events for Refugee Week, which takes place between Monday, June 20 and Sunday, June 26.

Wainhouse Tower will be lit up orange to show Calderdale's solidarity with refugees, and there will be special displays in some of Calderdale's libraries.

For more information visit HERE

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