A young person’s story – provided by NIACRO:

The night my mother and father were arrested was one of the worst days of my life.  Nothing prepared me for what lay ahead.  I was sitting in my room doing my school work when I heard heavy banging at the door.  It made me jump so I went to see what it was.  My dad answered the door and it was the police.  I was curious why they were calling at our door.  I heard them telling my dad something about a search warrant and cannabis but I never thought for one minute it had anything to do with my family.  My dad let the police in and we all sat in the living room.  My mother was crying as she was so confused.  She doesn’t speak English so my dad and I had to keep explaining to her what was happening.  The police explained that they were arresting my mother and father and that immigration was also going to be looking into our legal status in this country.

That night my brother and I spent the night in our house alone.  I never slept all night thinking about my parents and worrying about what was going to happen to them.  Where were they? When would they be coming home? Who could I ring to find out what is happening?  The police had given me a number for a police officer to phone but I couldn’t find it due to all the chaos earlier.

Within two days social services had called and a worker from Family Links phoned me.  I felt more at ease.  They explained that they were going to help support me and my brother as best they could.  I was in school so I didn’t know how I was going to cope financially.  How was I going to pay the bills? What would I tell the school? Would I be able to visit my parents?

The Family Links worker explained that housing benefit would pay for my rent and that social services would pay me money on a weekly basis for electricity, oil and food.  She helped me get some money to get us new clothes – shirts and trousers – for school.  She also arranged for my brother and I to visit my mother in custody.

Visiting my mother was a very distressing experience for me. I hated seeing y mother in prison.  She was very distressed as she was so worried about my brother and I.  She had not spoken to my dad either and was concerned about him too.  I was finding this whole experience very stressful.

Over the next six months until my mother was released I did not tell any of my friends where my parents were as I was so ashamed.  The only people who knew were my head teacher, social services and our Family Links worker.  These were the only people I would speak to about my situation as I was so embarassed.

I wasn’t sleeping as I was worried about my brother and my parents.  Our worker advised me to go to the doctors and he gave me medication and referred me to a mental health counsellor who I had to meet with weekly.  We were visiting mum as much as we could but for a long period we were unable to visit as our passports were being held by immigration.  Our worker applied our citizen cards for us but they took weeks to come back.  I had to attend a few family meetings with the law centre and immigration to talk to them about our legal status.  The Family Links worker supported me through this which was great and she helped keep me calm and feel at ease about the whole situation.  There were still so many questions running through my head.  What about my parents?  What about all the school work I had done to try to get a place in university?

In December my mother was released without charge just in time for Christmas and a few months later my father was released on bail.  Our Family Links worker continues to support us as we face an uncertain future.

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