This Boy Is 13. He Lost His Father and Sister to Racist Mobs. What Hope Has He in Blunkett's Britain?

By Carrell, Severin | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), November 3, 2003 | Go to article overview
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This Boy Is 13. He Lost His Father and Sister to Racist Mobs. What Hope Has He in Blunkett's Britain?


Carrell, Severin, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


Young Kubar has endured traumas that few British children will ever know. His sister and father have died after assaults by racist mobs. His home has been attacked. Abuse and hostility have poisoned every day of his short life.

Kubar is 13 and a Romany, and as such, in his native Poland is treated as casual prey for racists. He, his sister Rossita, and mother Boguska escaped the persecution and came to London to seek refuge.

That much they have found - for now - but in the Britain of 2003, seekers of refuge, even those as small and damaged as Kubar, can take nothing for granted - home, schooling, livelihood, even the certainty that they will not be posted back to the land of their persecution.

What they can expect for sure is ever deepening poverty, a confrontation with David Blunkett's tough new asylum laws, and the prospect, even if they stay, of dispersal under the Home Office's controversial programme for scattering asylum seekers across Britain's hostels and bedsits.

That policy threatens the only security and happiness he has ever known. Kubar now lives with his mother and sister at his uncle Marek's cramped home in Newham, east London. Ten people live in the terraced house; Kubar sleeps on the floor, but to him it is still a haven. "I would rather sleep with 10 people in one bed," he says, "That's better than going back to Poland."

Kubar's mother, because she is an applicant refugee, is unable to apply for free milk and vitamins, is barred from getting emergency money for furniture or clothes, and is unable to claim for rent. The family relies heavily on support from the Children's Society, which runs a project for Roma refugees and other asylum seekers near their home.

When Kubar first arrived in Britain, the charity helped him find a school place, free school meals and a uniform. His sister was found a college place. It now gives his mother weekly support and advice sessions, and regular legal advice, helping them negotiate Britain's asylum regulations. But, if the harsher rules unveiled by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, last week come into force, they face a very uncertain Christmas and New Year. Under the new proposals outlined in the Queen's Speech, if his mother's bid for asylum fails, her benefits would be totally withdrawn. As a result, Kubar and Rossita could be taken into care.

Like tens of thousands of east European Roma, Kubar's family have lived as outcasts and refugees for generations, arriving in Poland from Hungary.

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