Faraj came to Horton Housing’s Spring Street hostel in Huddersfield in January 2016. The 21 year old is a Syrian refugee who has been living in the UK since August 2015. When he arrived at Spring Street, Faraj was shy and knew very little English, having to rely on an online translating tool to communicate effectively. The language barrier along with having no formal qualifications, meant he was struggling to find employment.
During his stay at Spring Street, he has accessed courses which are improving his skills and helping him become work-ready. Through a local college he has attended an IT course and regularly goes to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Faraj's English language ability has improved a great deal as a result and he no longer has to constantly use an online translating tool when speaking with others. To develop this skill further, he will soon be attending a literacy and communications course at Horton Housing's Training Centre in Bradford. Faraj is keen to develop and gain new skills as he would like to further himself and give himself a chance of a brighter future.
Faraj is a talented vegetarian cook and has developed this skill in a cooking course and in 'Cook and Eat' sessions at the hostel. He also regularly cooks for others at a local church, during group meetings of other refugees and those from other countries. Cooking is a passion of his and he values it as an important life skill. Faraj enjoys going to the church to help out with cleaning and cooking and says that he likes meeting people from a variety of different backgrounds. The church supports asylum seekers through giving clothes and food. He says that he gives his time helping them because they have helped him.
Before seeking refuge in the UK, Faraj lived with his family in Aleppo in Syria. The conflict forced Faraj and his family to leave in 2012. They moved to Turkey, where he took up teaching Arabic and cooking classes in a school. He was given a room in the school to stay during his time there. He struggled to live in Turkey as he could not get residential status or a place to study. Faraj and his family moved to Egypt for around eight months but went back to Turkey. Faraj decided to travel further into Europe for a chance of a better future. Being gay was another factor which made Faraj decide to move away, as he says his lifestyle is not widely accepted in both countries. It is also a secret that he has chosen to keep from his family.
His journey onwards to the UK was a long, challenging and dangerous one. He left Turkey in 2015 with his cousin and reached Greece by boat. In various countries he was stopped by police and denied access to travel further into Western Europe. He particularly struggled in Hungary, where he walked with other refugees for twenty-one hours to get across the border, but was caught and spent ten days in prison, which he says was an extremely bad experience. After being forced back into Serbia, he was successful on a second attempt to travel across Hungary. This time he could easily blend in with others as he reached the country’s multicultural capital city, Budapest. Travelling onwards to Germany, he stayed for a short time with his cousin's relative. Afterwards he continued his journey to the UK, leaving for France alone. After a long and harrowing journey, Faraj was excited to finally have reached the UK in August 2015 and in November was granted refugee status. For his first night in the UK he stayed in a hotel near London. From there he travelled to Wakefield and stayed there under two weeks, eventually arriving in Huddersfield in September.
Faraj says that the journey he took to reach the UK has made him stronger because of the struggles and risks that he faced along the way, but he misses his family and would like to see them again. He has a strong bond, particularly with his mother, with whom he continues to be in contact. Faraj says that although he misses his family, he realises that others have it worse, accepting that he currently has a room to stay in and that his family are alright. Faraj notes that it is better for him to be in the UK as Syria is now a dangerous place because of the war between ISIS and other groups in Northern Syria. As a Syrian refugee, Faraj is happy in the UK as he says that he is able to live and study and free to be gay within an accepting society.
He is currently applying to an organisation where families near London offer spare rooms in their homes to refugees. If he is successful, he will be leaving Spring Street in a few weeks. Faraj is looking forward to the possible move, as he is keen to experience living near London.
Whilst living in the UK, Faraj hopes to find work in a restaurant and apply to university to study psychology. He states that he is interested in looking after a healthy mind and a healthy body. In the future he hopes to return home to Syria, after a possible end to the war, to become a psychologist helping child victims who have suffered persecution. He is grateful for his experience of living in the UK so far and would like to visit again after he returns home to Syria.
Faraj has thoroughly enjoyed his time at Spring Street and he feels comfortable here. He is grateful for the staff at the hostel and credits his support worker, Nichola who gave him support with housing and accessing courses. In addition he says that she is always around to help and talk to and always asks if he is ok. Since he arrived at Spring Street his confidence has improved and he says that everything he has learnt and experienced during his stay has enabled him to access more opportunities in the future.