By Ash

Ash found the prospect of deportation from the country they considered their home to be one of the most challenging aspects of their prison sentence. With the help of Prisoners Abroad, they are now back on their feet, living and working in the UK.

 I grew up in a small English county town and knew very little about anything outside of this place. As a young teenager me and my family moved to Melbourne, Australia where I spent the rest of my adult life.

I’m pretty much Australian and so everyone seems to think. I never considered coming back to England but in my early twenties I made some bad choices and ended up in prison. I actually coped quite well with prison life and adapted fairly quickly. It’s not like you see in the movies - not my experience anyway.

I was soon made aware that, because I was not an Australian citizen, I would be deported after my release.

This scared me more than my prison sentence. Australia was my home, my family live here, my friends and my career are both here. I didn’t know what to do.

After five years inside I came to accept being deported and believed that maybe change is for the best. Being released from prison, I was immediately taken to the airport and escorted by security staff to the plane. Two members of security staff accompanied me on the plane and all the way to London.

After arriving in London, I was met at the gates of the plane by London police, they were really friendly and gave me a welcome pack which was provided by Prisoners Abroad.

The welcome pack contained a basic smartphone, travel card, shopping voucher, important paperwork, toiletries, hat and gloves. The phone was set up with a number and email address and ready to use.

The police had a chat with me then directed me on my way. That was the first moment I was truly free and alone with no one watching me. But I had no time to relax, I had to make my way to the hotel I was staying at for the next week.

The first week was very strange; London is very busy and I wasn’t prepared for the amount of new faces I would see. It felt like I had gone forward in time to a futuristic world.

On day one I contacted the Prisoners Abroad Team and was given lots of support. My support worker was extremely helpful and spoke with me on the phone regularly, guiding me through every step of life on the outside. She got me signed up to Universal Credit, housing, helped me organise a bank account and everything one might need.

After my stay in the hotel, Prisoners Abroad paid for me to stay in a hostel for a few nights before the council placed me in temporary accommodation. I had a small one bed studio flat to myself and no rent or bills to pay. I found work right away but changed jobs a few times until I found something I really enjoyed.

I’m now working in a job that I love and have a permanent position.

I’m a Christian and one thing on my to do list was to find a church which I did and have made many friends. I have also found a girlfriend who accepts my past and wants to share in my future.

After five months I moved into my own rental flat close to my work. Now I’m living for myself and paying all the bills with no government or council support because I don’t need it - I'm earning enough.

So that’s it, the hardest part now feels over and now life continues as normal. I have Prisoners Abroad and the UK government to thank. Without their help I would be homeless and struggling.

I want to thank you for all the help and support you have given me. You were there when I needed help the most and I don’t know how I would have managed without you.

Thank you for your grace.

Offering a guiding hand

Prisoners Abroad supports people who return to the UK after prison; we find them somewhere to stay, provide grants for food and travel, and help them take the vital steps to a new life.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?