Anwar Arif has been seeking asylum in Scotland for the past 4 years. He has a MSc in Human Resource Management, as well as 14 years of work experience in his home country. Unfortunately, due to current restrictions on asylum seekers’ right to work, he is unable to seek employment. While he is in the asylum process, Anwar is engaging with various different voluntary organisations to gain confidence and experience. He is a Voices Ambassador with Maryhill Integration Network and is campaigning to #LiftTheBan, as well as looking at issues of free travel, children’s rights, and healthcare rights.
Eleni Kepelian is a bilingual communications consultant and volunteer for Citizens Rights Project in Scotland, supporting EU migrants to secure their rights in UK. She currently works for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and is working on creating a podcast for JustCitizens. She has an active interest in immigration, mental health and social inclusion. As a third-generation migrant herself, she joined the Panel to connect and collaborate on building fairer, inclusive immigration policies.
Glory Omoaka came to Scotland from Nigeria via London and now has leave to remain. She volunteers with a range of charities including the Poverty Truth Commission, the anti-trafficking organisation the Dignity project, the Women Asylum Seekers Housing (WASH) project, Govan Community project and more. She has a certificate in Early Child Development and Health, a degree in marketing, is a mother and currently a student nurse. She joined Just Citizens aiming to help make the change for substantial changes in the policy and practice of government to support migrants. She says she wants to “change things preventing us to become who we want to be, and be able to live a better life and contribute to the society. I believe that together we can create change.”
Lidia Dancu moved to Scotland in her teens and has first hand experience of the immigration system. She has a passion for human rights, access to justice, and access to education. She is a researcher and has worked extensively on the University of Sanctuary programme at the Open University. She has a range of professional and personal experience which makes her an important member of our team. Lidia is also a consultant with the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre.
Mada Basbous is an ex-asylum seeker and present refugee here in Glasgow. She says that that she feels like she belongs in Scotland but is treated like a stranger- this is a kind of work that can change this. She is currently a teacher for children with special needs, and provides important insight into the issues of integration, education, and children’s rights. Mada is also an ambassador of the Voices Network.
Mira Waligora came to Scotland from Finland to study at university, having previously lived in France. She is originally from Poland. She has been working as a public service interpreter in Glasgow for over five years, also works on alongside the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council on a project supporting Eastern European minorities and volunteers at the Citizens’ Rights Project. Her experience living as a migrant in a foreign country for most of her life, paired with her current work experience, motivated her to join Just Citizens to help migrants’ voices to be heard and their needs understood. She says: “It’s in everyone’s interest for all those who live in Scotland to be able to fully participate in Civic life.”
Omokhele Mary Nnamani is originally from Nigeria and came to Scotland in the year 2014. She is a proud mother of 4. She has great insight into the immigration system, and displays a passion for access to healthcare, education, transport, and participation. She has also completed various courses on early childhood education. Her interests are looking out for those who have been maligned and marginalised. She loves cooking, baking, and travelling.
Paul William Valencia Palacios is an ex-asylum seekers and present refugee here in Glasgow. He is currently a student at Glasgow College. He has been involved with various projects throughout his time in Scotland, including Govan Community Project, Refugees Ending Destitution, and CWIN. He has volunteered with charities supporting homeless people, and has used his time to help others in difficult positions. He says, “it’s hard being away from the people you love, starting from scratch is a challenge. I thank God for being alive, I just want an opportunity to rise from the ashes and demonstrate my ability to achieve goals, improve myself and help society.”
Radia Al Madhagi‘s background is in the health sector, where she has been a radiologist for over 19 years. She has also worked in the humanitarian field in different positions for over 8 years since the start of the war in her home country. Since arriving in the UK in 2020, she has faced many challenges. She has tried to be involved in several programs and activities in the third and public sector, as well as starting many voluntary activities all aimed at raising awareness and advocated for migrant, refugee and asylum seekers’ rights. She is part of the Voices Network.
Shaina Gabi is from Canada and came to Scotland in 2006 to complete her undergraduate MA in International Relations. Currently she is an immigration adviser with Citizens Advice Edinburgh focusing on supporting individuals to secure their rights through the EU Settlement Scheme. Shaina joined Just Citizens out of a desire to strive for inclusion not just integration in society.
Vaidas Vyniautas is originally from Lithuania. He has degrees in social work and in law and is passionate about using his knowledge and skills to help migrants and other members of the society dealing with their problems, such as welfare rights, debts, employment, housing, etc. Vaidas is currently studying LLM Human Rights Law at the University of Strathclyde.
While in Scotland, Vaidas has been involved in various roles in social services and advice sectors including Glasgow housing associations. He has also been involved with Citizens Advice Bureau working in various roles and helping local communities fighting injustice. He hopes that taking part in the Just Citizens panel will help to contribute to change in our society and better lives not only to migrants, but to all people in Scotland.