Life in confinement as experienced by our clients: Marisa's story

22 May 2020

Marisa is an asylum seeker, who came to the UK from Zimbabwe 20 years ago, and has been going through the immigration system ever since.

She is awaiting a decision on her refugee status, and lives in a care home because she needs round the clock care due to poor physical and mental health. These underlying conditions put her at high risk of COVID-19. Marisa spoke to Sarah-Jane Freni, our Communications Manager, about how her life has changed during the pandemic.

SJF: What is your situation at present?

Marisa: I’ve been in this country for 20 years and I’m still going through the immigration system. It’s been a long process. I am now working with the Bristol Law Centre, and was hoping to finally get confirmation of my status this year, but because of the coronavirus everything has slowed down and now I’m not so sure.

But this is my home, and if they send me back to Zimbabwe, I wouldn’t survive. I have so many medical problems. I suffer from HIV and psychosis and have to take a lot of medication. I couldn’t afford to pay for my care over there, I would die.

SJF: Other than the people from the care home you live in, which other services do you usually interact with?

Marisa: Golden Key is helping me a lot. I only get £30 a week from social services which isn’t a lot to live on. Because of all the medication I have to take, I need a lot of food but I can’t buy much for £30, especially not healthy food. So Abdi, my service coordinator at Golden Key, has been helping me by supplying me with nutritious food. He takes me to the shop so I can choose. I don’t take the piss, I only buy things like cornflakes, porridge, chicken and necessities.

I also get support from One25. I’d normally attend their drop in but obviously now I can’t.

SJF: How have things changed for you because of the confinement?

Marisa: I don’t go out much, as I have to stay indoors because I’m high risk. I haven’t got many friends. One25 still calls me once a week and drops off parcels with things like toiletries which is nice. I do miss chatting with the other women at the One25 drop in, and I miss having their cooked meals. Now I have to cook everything myself, and I can’t afford any comfort food. If I don’t have the right ingredients, I just cook porridge.

I watch a lot of television and when I want to talk, I can have a chat with the staff here at the care home.

SJF: How are you feeling about the coronavirus pandemic?

Marisa: It’s really driving me crazy and I don’t know what to do. I worry a lot for my family back home. I’m sad that I can’t look after them or provide for them when I can just about afford to survive over here.

I also wish Boris Johnson hadn’t relaxed the rules, because now there are a lot more people in the park, which means it’s very risky for me to go out. I can’t go and sit on a bench for fear of catching the virus. Normally I can go out with one of the staff here, and they can keep an eye on me to make sure I stay safe, but there are so many people out now, it’s scary for people like me who are more vulnerable. It means we’re even more restricted than before.

SJF: Do you get to interact with the other residents in the home or do you have to stay in your room?

Marisa: Yes we can interact with each other, for example we sometimes cook together. Everything is monitored to make sure it’s safe but I feel there is a distance at the moment. I worry about other people’s behaviour, going into town and I don’t know where they’ve been which could put me at risk. It makes me feel bad and then I go in my room and close my door.

SJF: Is there anything you’d like to say to the services you interact with or the people in charge about how you’d like to see things change?

Marisa: I would have liked for the government not to say it was ok to go to the park. It’s too risky, I think the virus is going to spread even more. And it means people like me can’t go out for fear of catching it, it doesn’t feel fair.

Other than that, I hope they’ll let me stay in the country. All I want is to be healthy and I can’t do that in Zimbabwe.

And I still want Golden Key to help me with food shopping!