Human rights lawyer Mayada Elmaki struggled to find work after gaining asylum in the UK – but with the help of the charity Breaking Barriers, she is rebuilding her career. She tells Siobhán Norton why employment is the best way for refugees to integrate in society.
Elmaki says that she felt unwelcome in the UK – until she got in touch with the charity Breaking Barriers.
Launched in 2015 by 28-year-old Matthew Powell, the charity helps refugees acquire the knowledge, confidence and experience to get stable, fulfilling employment.
It was at a Breaking Barriers event in 2016 that Elmaki had her next stroke of luck. Chatting to Powell, she told him how eager she was to return to the legal field.
He put her in touch with Kamal Rahman, a partner and head of immigration at the law firm Mischon de Reya in London, who offered Elmaki work experience.
“Getting such an opportunity was good news for me, but I had just started working again,” says Elmaki.
“It was really difficult to go back to the Jobcentre, and move back into the hostel, but I felt, well, it’s like gambling – let’s see what will happen.”
Taking the next step the gamble paid off: Elmaki was offered a job at the firm working as a personal assistant and helping with some translation work.
She now works as a legal administrator in Mischon de Reya’s immigration department and hopes to progress through the firm.
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