Undocumented: My life without papers

The following blog is from a young woman who was born in Nigeria and brought to the UK when she was 9 years old. Here she describes the challenges she has faced due to her lack of papers and being undocumented in the UK.


Campaign poster from undocumented movement in USA

When I came to this country with my mother, I was fully aware that I had no ‘lawful’ status in the UK. I was nine years old when I arrived here and, even at that age, I already felt alienated from my peers. I knew that I would not go home to enjoy the same comforts of security and safety that they felt. My mother was always out searching for ways to feed me and clothe me. She didn’t pretend that everything was alright because it wasn’t. But she didn’t run away either.

At nine years old, I had begun to hone my skills at putting on a smile and pretending everything was ok. Needless to say I was very cautious around the friends I made. I was ashamed to take anyone to my home and would always suggest any socialising occurred at their house. Looking back now, I sympathise with my friends. How were they to know how hurt, alone and afraid I was? As I progressed through secondary school, the isolation continued.

The irony of the situation is that I grew into a very cheery person because I realised being anything else would cause me to unravel. So I made friends very easily and was quite approachable. This meant a lot of people felt they knew me and that I had it quite well in life. A lot of people even thought I was rich, privileged. However, after my long hard day at school, I would clock out and prepare myself to leave my safe dream and to enter my reality.

I guess what really motivated me throughout my childhood was the idea that I would go to university and be able to make a life for myself. Needless to say I was devastated when I learned, after my first year of college, how truly hopeless that was. Up till that moment, I felt my lack of immigration status had robbed me of my innocence; my trust in people; my childhood; my security; many opportunities and some vital relationships. But it was my childhood dream to go to university. I could not have imagined that my status would rob me of this as well.

When I realised that I would not be able to go to university, it really was like having the floor pulled out from under me. Throughout my schooling I had coped with the usual exam stress (SAT, GCSE, AS-level) alongside the fear that at any moment something could happen to my mum and me. And then I found out it might have all been for nothing.

I really did hit a low point after my first year of college. I felt sad for my friends who had no idea of my immigration problem and did not know how to comfort me because they did not understand the magnitude of the situation. Thankfully I have picked myself up since and finished college with pretty awesome grades. I just encourage myself by thinking, well, “this too shall pass”. As long as I have life, I have something worth celebrating. So I celebrate by appreciating everything that comes my way, no matter how small.


From anonymous blogger, aged 18