Supporting Refugee Week: Emad's story

“Affordable housing and support are both so important for people seeking sanctuary. For me, living in a Thirteen home has offered peace of mind - I feel safe and settled in the community.”


23 Jun 2023

This case study makes references to war, violence and mental health and it might be upsetting for some readers.

With an engagement to celebrate and a university degree in law underway, Emad was feeling excited and hopeful about his future when his life was turned upside down by conflict in Syria.

Emad said: "When the war started, my life as I knew it stopped.

"My fiancé and members of her family were killed, and the university building I once studied in was torn down.

"I experienced kidnapping and physical violence. I felt completely lost."

“At that point, I moved from my home in Syria and fled to the UK to seek safety.”

Building a new life in Teesside

"When I arrived to Teesside in 2015, I was moved into shared accommodation for people seeking asylum.

"At first, I didn't know anyone in the area and I spoke very little English, so I researched every day to help me learn the language and find my feet.

"I knew that I wanted to use my own experience and challenges to help other people in similar situations, so from day one, I looked into volunteering with local community groups that support refugees.

"Once I was recognised as a refugee by the Home Office, I was given 28 days to leave the shared accommodation and find my own home.

"I found out about Thirteen and applied for a property through their website.

"I now live in a Thirteen home with my wife, who is a doctor for the NHS. We love where we live.

"The staff at Thirteen are friendly and supportive, and I've made friends with neighbours in the area too.

“Affordable accommodation and support are both so important for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. For me, living in a Thirteen home has offered peace of mind - I feel safe and settled in the community.”

Supporting other refugees

"My volunteering experience helped me gain a full-time role as Refugee Integration Manager for local charity, Open Door North East.

"Open Door North East provides a range of support to refugees and asylum seekers so they can integrate in the community.

"We can help people with finding and applying for a home, maintaining a tenancy, English speaking skills, getting into employment, volunteering and education, and budgeting and money advice.

"We work closely with Thirteen to find the right accommodation for refugees and help them settle in to their new home.

"It is a great feeling to give back to the local area and help other people who are seeking sanctuary. My personal experience as a refugee helps other people open up to me, as I have an understanding of the challenges they've faced.

"Alongside my role at Open Door North East, I have started studying law part-time and I am in the final year of my course at Teesside University.

“My life has really transformed and I am looking forward to the future again, completing my studies in law and supporting other people through their challenges too.”