We get £5 a week extra now our baby is born. I’ve considered working illegally | Paul

Asylum seekers like me, who came here fleeing for our lives via a legal route, are still treated like the enemy when we are not allowed to work

  • This article is part of the heat or eat diaries: a series from the frontline of Britain’s cost of living emergency

Our son was born a week ago. It’s brilliant, everything is fine, but there are new pressures now. Before his birth, we received a one-off payment of £300 which was amazing. We bought baby clothes, nappies, baby wash, equipment. Now it’s all spent, and we are living on our weekly allowance of £41 with an extra £5 for our son. It’s not enough.

A pack of 24 nappies is gone in five days! Formula milk is so expensive I could hardly believe it. My wife is breastfeeding but our son is tiny – 2.5kg – and needs to grow so he is bottle-fed too. My wife needs enough to eat to stay nourished. I’d like to buy a softer mattress for my baby’s cot. He’ll need new clothes as he gets bigger. Then there is all the travel back and forth to hospital.

In times like this, to be honest, you are tempted to work illegally. There are so many companies looking for drivers, there’s a demand for key workers, there are so many jobs. The cost of living is crazy. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and yet we’re not given the tools to survive either, and we can’t provide for our family’s needs.

One of our biggest concerns with this new government is that the issue of asylum seekers is always on the news and seems entirely focused on those people crossing the Channel on boats. There is never any sense that there are so many different stories, different people from different places who did not enter Britain illegally but came here because they were in fear for their lives and desperate enough to leave their country and to trust the system. We are not the enemy. We might even help if we could be given a chance.

I won’t take a job, of course. I’m totally clear that it’s not the way. The basis of good relations between humans must be trust and respect, so I don’t want to break the law. Now my son is here, although he’s only a baby, I’m already thinking about what I want to show him, what I want to teach him, and I want him to know that I did the right thing. We’re thankful that the food bank where I volunteer has helped us. If we receive three tins of beans, that’s three meals covered. A big roll of tissue from them is another thing that we don’t need to pay for. I try not to use the food bank unless we really need it, but I think we can only manage one or two more weeks without asking for more help.

People will probably ask why we had a baby at this time. I’m in my 30s, I’m very happy with my wife, but we always wanted a family. The process of seeking asylum has been so, so slow – more than a year for a decision and now another wait for our appeal to be heard with no idea when it will be. How long can we stop our life and put everything on hold? Giving your child a good life isn’t only about buying the best toys, or what you can pay for. It’s also about teaching your kids, respecting others, helping others. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to do my best to give him a good life and help him be a good person.

We’re feeling such a mixture of things now. To finally sit with my wife and my baby, to be this new family, is so emotional, but there’s always this creeping fear for the future, the sensation of desperation.

I’m trying to focus on the things we can do – we both go back to school next week to continue our studies of English and maths. I need to chat with the college to see if they can schedule one of us in the morning and the other in the afternoon so that we can both learn and take turns to look after the baby. I’m making sure our solicitor has everything he needs for our appeal. At the moment, thank god, we have a roof over our heads, hot water and a safe place to take care of our son. I’m telling myself that’s everything.

  • As told to Anna Moore. Paul is in his 30s and is an asylum seeker living in the north of England. Names have been changed

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that campaigns to end the need for food banks. Show your support at: trusselltrust.org/guardian

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