In 2010 Hua 25, left China to study for a degree at Belfast University. In January 2013 she had a baby boy and wanted to stay in the UK. However when she wasn’t able to extend her visa or get legal status for her baby she decided to go back to China.
Hua needed help to return and that’s when she heard about Refugee Action’s Choices Service. “The Choices service was very helpful,” says Hua. “It’s good to know someone is there for you”.
Refugee Action has been advising people on assisted voluntary return for over ten years. As a charity, Refugee Action is separate from the government and the Choices service provides free and confidential advice for people considering returning to their country.
Choices will never tell anyone that someone has come to talk to them, unless that person has asked them to. Choices can help people who have claimed asylum, people with temporary status, and people with no legal status in the UK, including children and those who want to return with their families.
The people at Choices understand that deciding whether or not to return home is a difficult and important decision. They will respect each individual’s decision no matter what they decide. For those who choose not to return, where possible Choices offers referral to other services.
For people who do make the decision to return home Choices helps with a free flight, planning for the future and help to get travel documents. Some people are also eligible for money and support for activities when they return like setting up a business or renting accommodation.
“Choices organised travel documents for me and my baby and booked the flight ticket,” says Hua. I returned with the programme for families and children (AVRFC) which meant I was entitled to £500 per person in cash and another £1500 for each of us to spend on education, business, rent or medical expenses when I got back to China. Choices was a good choice for me!”
Thousands of people have been supported to build a new life in over 90 countries across the world with the help of Choices. Last year, the 10 countries that the highest number of people returned to were Pakistan, China, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Brazil and Libya.
Paulo returned to Brazil with his wife and son earlier this year and is now working as a teacher. “If you’re thinking of coming back to your country, contact the guys at Choices,” he says. “They’re great; they will help you out, just as they helped me and my family. It’s not to do with the government so don’t be afraid. Just have a chat with them and see what they can do for you.”
To find out more and for free and confidential advice call Choices free on 0808 800 0197 or visit www.choices-avr.org.uk