Ralph* served a prison sentence in Australia, where he had built his life after living there for years.

As Ralph approached release, he was told he was going to be deported back to the UK, a country that was now alien to him. This meant he had to leave his home, his family, his long-term partner, and faced starting a new life at the age of 80. 

I was put on a flight and sent thousands of miles from anything that was familiar to me. I was leaving everything behind. 

For the duration of the plane journey from Australia, Ralph had not been able to stop himself from imagining life sleeping rough in London, surviving the cold as an elderly man. He had no living relatives in the UK and was deeply concerned with the thought of having nowhere to live, with no friends or family to support him.

As I walked through arrivals and saw returning travellers hugging loved ones, it was painful to think that my partner was on the other side of the world. The reunion that we would have had was taken away from me and I felt very alone.

With his life packed into a small suitcase, Ralph made his way to Prisoners Abroad's office to meet Amber, his Resettlement Officer. After welcoming Ralph and making him a cup of tea, Amber was able to reassure him that Prisoners Abroad could help. 

When someone is deported to the UK after having lived abroad for many years, every part of their life is uprooted and has to be built again from scratch. Amber found temporary accommodation for Ralph, so that he could be safe, and reassured him that they would find something longer term for him when the time came. 

When Ralph moved in, Prisoners Abroad provided the essentials he needed to get by. Ralph was given a home starter pack that included pots and pans, bedding, plates, coffee mugs and a toaster. 

Ralph needed to book housing appointments with the council to find more permanent accommodation. To do this he would need to set up a British bank account and he would need to be able to prove his identity. The long list of forms Ralph needed to fill out and the appointments that he needed make would have been daunting for anyone. But for Ralph, who was not well-versed with computers, it would have been almost impossible to know where to start.

Amber was able to complete the forms and set up the appointments Ralph needed on his behalf, so that he could start looking for a more permanent home. At the same time she registered Ralph with a GP and helped fill in the paperwork he needed to begin claiming his pension.

I will never forget the kindness of these wonderful people whose comprehensive support has helped me to get settled in the UK. This in itself gave me a tremendous feeling of acceptance.

For Ralph, the transition from Australia to Britain was painful, and many others each year face the same challenges. Ralph continues to feel lonely, particularly with the restrictions brought with the Coronavirus, however Amber is still in regular contact with him and is able to give Ralph support and guidance over the phone.

Last year, we supported 340 people with our Resettlement Service, of which 133 had newly returned. For many people this winter, Prisoners Abroad’s resettlement support may be the only thing preventing them from becoming destitute. 

It is scary to think about it but if Prisoners Abroad did not exist, I honestly believe I would have been homeless.

A donation today could mean ensuring someone like Ralph has the support and hope they need as they start a new life in the UK.

*name changed to protect identity