Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Thought Picnic: Returnee Woes


This is pain
There is an interesting aspect of being a returnee that is quite uncomfortable and disconcerting. When you return home from another country after so many years away, the only thing you probably have is your identity and not much else.
The process of reintegration is being fraught by rules that do not seem to have exceptions. Resettlement is not easy and planning it depends on how you are able to leave where you were to where you want to be and the attendant responsibilities that come with it.
Soul destroyers
In my case, I am caught in a Catch-22 situation that is growing ridiculous by the day. Normally, on arrival in the UK one is to register as looking for work. My experience of the literally soul-destroying concept of being told you are not doing enough to find work that you are matched to jobs that demand nothing of you than to demean and depress you from over 20 years ago was job not what I needed at this time.
Recently, I read of the experience of a PhD holder expected to do menial jobs and not considered to be utilising his job-searching time productively if he was researching and preparing for interviews belying an inferior and pedestrian system in the UK whereas in the Netherlands they fully appreciated your skills and offered help and advice to job-seekers to help them flourish in what they really do know how to do.
Hitting the ground running
I arrived on a Friday and took temporary accommodation with a relation, by Sunday, I had obtained a mobile phone SIM and a new phone number that allowed me to update my CV with an address and number – enough to give it some freshness.
On Monday, I was getting calls and by Tuesday the inquiries were gaining traction that I landed an interview on Thursday after which I was offered a job, what had to follow were mere formalities – terms, contract and other essential personal details.
Proving an improbable
No one on entering a country within days is able to provide a proof of address in that country without exceptional circumstances to that effect. The social services will only consider a returnee habitually resident in the UK only after 3 months of arrival, before which that have no obligations though asylum seekers in dire need seem to get prompt attention.
I could not open a bank account without a proof of address and the company that was supposed to handle my payroll then said they will not release payments for my work until I could prove where I lived, however, I cannot claim many of the official documents like utility bills, job centre correspondence or government agency letters when I am in temporary residence still trying to find my feet.
Exceptionally unique circumstances
In essence, even though I am ready, able and engaged to contribute my bit to society, I am being treated like a homeless man, my independent streak to just get up and do not appreciated and there does not seem to be some exception to cater for people with my kind of unique circumstances.
The unintended consequence of anti-money laundering laws are hitting on honest and innocent persons ready to earn a living but frustrated by the system. Meanwhile, we read of looters of African treasuries washing their ill-gotten wealth through British banks with amazingly breath-taking ease.
Do something
I have put the onus back on my employer and Payroll Company, having offered my identification and met with their personnel, they know what I will be earning and it is unlikely that with the contracts I have signed with both, I can at the same time be an agent of money laundering at their behest.
What is required is a bit of common sense and intuitiveness on their part to validate my existence and facilitate my reintegration.
When I moved to the Netherlands over a decade ago, my employer stood as surety guaranteeing the necessity I had for opening a bank account and consequently securing rental property – that is what I am asking of them – the emails will go back and forth until I have gotten them to stand and stand tall on my behalf. I should not be agonising about these things, I want to concentrate on my new job and perform excellently in what I know to do.

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