Having been born in the UK, I have a passport, a driving licence, and a birth certificate – an array of documents, all of which serve to confirm my nationality.

But proving nationality is not always as easy, as many of those seeking asylum in the UK are finding out. A lack of documentation, frayed family links, and civil and political uncertainty all create a barrier to establishing nationality. Many people’s asylum claims have been refused due to this lack of evidence of where they come from, and as a result they are finding themselves living a life of destitution in the UK.

Beacon embraces the biblical injunction, Welcome The Stranger, and our McKenzie Friends project works to help those seeking sanctuary in Bradford whose claims have been refused and who have no legal representation.

We have seen several clients over the past year that have been unable to prove their nationality and consequently have had their asylum claims refused. This is particularly the case with people from Ethiopia and Eritrea. In light of this, several of our volunteers have accompanied clients to the Ethiopian Embassy in London, in order to try to formally establish their nationality.

McKenzie Friends volunteer Jackie Coutts has accompanied several individuals, most recently two young men.

Both men have claimed asylum in the UK but have been refused, and subsequently they have had all support withdrawn.

On their visit to the embassy, they took with them the names of their parents and their schools, and an application for a passport. As is happening time and time again, their applications were looked at and the men were directed to a website which states that to obtain a passport you must have Ethiopian ID or a birth certificate. Like many in Ethiopia, they do not have these documents as their families became dispersed during the war with Eritrea.

For both Ethiopians and Eritreans a lack of evidence to prove their nationality means they are refused asylum, yet cannot be returned, and are ultimately forced into a life of destitution in the UK.

The well-being and basic survival of these families and individuals ultimately becomes dependent on the support provided through charities, faith groups and other organisations.

Kezia Rooke, Beacon co-ordinator