Armeen’s Story – From Iran to the UK

Unaccompanied Asylum SeekerArmeen, is now 17 and was forced to leave Iran at the age of 13 because his family faced religious persecution. His mother and father had separated when he was young, and his mother passed away shortly after that. He was raised by his father in Iran and attended school from the age of 7.

Armeen and his father converted from Islam to Christianity which placed them at risk living in Iran. They became targeted by the authority due to their religion and it was unsafe for them to remain, so they had to flee to the UK.

Armeen travelled with his father through Iran, sleeping rough. He eventually became separated from his father who he later heard had passed away. His father had arranged for him to be taken to the UK to make sure he was safe. He was trafficked by waggon across different countries. A group of children were piled into a waggon and they were kept in the dark throughout the whole journey. Armeen remembers feeling scared, anxious and worried about his dad and where he was. He was unsure which countries he travelled through to reach the UK as the traffickers did not pass on that information. The waggon was damp and cold, he barely had room to stretch out and at setpoints he even had to stand or hide and, keep very still so no one realised he was there. He only left the waggon at times to switch between different vehicles and he eventually travelled across Europe and into the UK by a lorry.

The whole experience was really daunting and took many months. Armeen arrived in the UK not being able to speak English and was ordered to go to a police station when he arrived. At first, he was nervous of professionals and the police due to his own experience of how corrupt and violent they had been in Iran. As he was under 18, he was placed in to the care of social services.

Armeen was placed in a hostel at first. It was felt by some that he was older than 18, so professionals conducted an age assessment with him. He was questioned for hours and felt helpless. Eventually he was placed in foster care with Capstone Foster Care.

He was 14 years old when he was placed in foster care with carers. Armeen specifically requested to be placed with Christian carers as he feared he would be persecuted again for his religion if he was placed with anyone from a different religion. He was placed with two Capstone carers from Christian backgrounds and he has now been with his carers for just over three years.

Armeen was quiet and reserved when he first arrived and would hide in his room for hours as he felt alone and unable to communicate properly with his carers.

Armeen’s foster parents took the time to make him feel safe and would take the time to make him feel comfortable with his new religious beliefs. To communicate with him the carers would use actions, write words and drawing of objects on paper. They helped Armeen to learn the English language by putting him into local courses at college. They also took the time to learn about his Iranian diet and his favourite meals and helped him to learn to cook meals for himself. They made sure his voice was heard in meetings about his care and advocated for him to secure residency in the UK.

Armeen still suffers flashbacks from his travelling ordeal and time in Iran, but he is now doing well at college and his language skills are getting better with time. His long-term carers are delighted by how far he has developed already, and he is becoming fully integrated into the family. Armeen is looking forward to moving onto independence when he turn’s 18, as his confidence has grown, and he feels ready for the next step. Armeen knows he will always be able to turn to his foster parents even when he moves on as they plan to be in regular contact.

Armeen’s social worker said:

‘Our service has helped Armeen to challenge his age assessment as well as his treatment by the home office. This is in keeping with the position that all young people we work with are treated as a child until proven otherwise. His first interview with the home office reminded him of the trauma of his journey and his time in Iran, which Armeen struggled to cope with talking about.

Capstone advocated on Armeen’s behalf and highlighted the impact the process was having on Armeen’s mental health. Armeen is receiving ongoing support and has recently been granted residency to remain in the UK. We have worked closely with Armeen’s carers to help them understand about Armeen’s past trauma, his beliefs, likes and dislikes including Armeen’s diet. Armeen’s foster parents have also completed relevant foster care training such as caring for sanctuary seeking children.’

*Armeen’s name has been changed in order to protect his identity
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