Penrith And Eden Refugee Network

Penrith and Eden Refugee Network


Amanuel is from Eritrea. The date he arrived in the UK – 28 March 2022 – is seared in his memory. He had to leave his country of birth, he says, ‘because of the Government. I cannot say what I want to there, it is not safe. There is, in short, no freedom’. 


After a week in Wolverhampton, the Home Office sent Amanuel to Carlisle, where he lived in the Hilltop Hotel for almost a year.  He made friends and gradually became more and more involved in the life of the community. 


He credits people in Carlisle, especially from PERN, for making him feel welcome. He was one of the first students at PERN English, and remembers his teachers at St John’s Church fondly. ‘Helen, Richard, Carolyn, Sonia, Evine and Catriona, they helped me with English. I enjoyed the classes, they were friendly. I made improvements in vocabulary and pronunciation and I also learned about life in the UK’. 


Amanuel immersed himself in activities in Carlisle. He joined the Hilltop football team, and volunteered at Rebike (a company which repairs donated bikes, skills up people who want to learn how to fix bikes, and offers free bike loans and cycle trips to enhance connection and wellbeing). Amanuel worked at Rebike for almost 6 weeks, fixing and maintaining bikes, and enjoyed meeting people on the organised expeditions. 


Amanuel says he also learned from PERN about how to go through the asylum process. ‘With Sarah and James,’ he says ‘we found the information I needed and a solicitor.’


However, after he had been living for a year in Carlise, Amanuel was suddenly told that the Home Office were moving him to a different city almost two hours away. When he left for Colne in Lancashire, he says it was very hard. ‘I had adapted to this place, I liked Carlisle, and I missed my football team, my English lessons and my friends’.


After six months in Colne (which he said felt like 6 years) his refugee status was approved and, free to move anywhere in the UK, he moved back to Carlisle in October 2023. 


On his return, Amanuel says PERN were instrumental in supporting his next step in making a life in the UK. ‘Sarah and James helped me again, to understand how to find a job and make a CV’. Amanuel got a job on the production line at the bakery in Lazonby. He says it’s a good job though the shifts are long and some of them begin at 4am. It wasn’t easy at the start, he says, but then he started getting to know people at work, making jokes, and days pass more easily now. 


PERN helped Amanuel find accommodation in Carlisle and he is continuing to learn English in his spare time. He says he could live elsewhere in the UK where there are more people from his country. However, there he would only speak Tigrinya and he sees English as the key to building a good life. ‘Carlisle is my world now’ he says, ‘I will live here’. He hopes to improve his English enough to go to college where he would like to study to be a plumber or electrician.

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