The people we have helped

Jo and Khushi

One is an 80-year-old retired lecturer of librarianship. The other is a 53-year-old refugee fleeing death threats in Pakistan.

Their backgrounds are very different but Jo Haythornthwaite and Khushi Khan have forged a true bond, sharing a taste in handbags, a sense of fun… and a home.

Now retired, Jo has hosted twelve asylum seekers since 2010, including Khushi, her longest resident.

“I started to feel a bit guilty when I moved into this flat and had two big double rooms lying empty, knowing that some people have nothing,” said Jo.

“So I took the plunge and decided to give one of them to an asylum seeker.”

Her most recent and her most “kind” guest, Khushi has lived with Jo for almost four years, aside from a traumatic few months which saw her taken to Dungavel Detention Centre near Glasgow and then to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire.

Jo and Kushi at home. (Wattie Cheung).

“Khushi had been living with me for over a year when she was involved in an incident in town and she was asked to give a statement,” said Jo.

“She hadn’t done anything wrong, but when the police realised she was a destitute asylum seeker, they locked her in a room and later she was taken to Dungavel. It was awful.”

Jo made sure to visit Khushi every week, making the two-hour round trip at her own expense.

“At least when she was at Dungavel, I could go and see her and make sure she was ok,” said Jo.

“Then, next I heard, she’d been woken in the middle of the night, bundled into a van and taken down to Yarl’s Wood in England. I was very angry, but this is what they do – get people when they’re half asleep and wont struggle.

“It was horrible because I couldn’t visit. But the lawyer got her a bail hearing, so finally I had the chance to bring her home.”

The pensioner, who was recently awarded a British Empire Medal for services to asylum seekers in Glasgow, rallied support from her neighbours who each gave her £10 towards her air fare to bring Khushi back home. All apart from one.

“One of them said to me, ‘I’m sorry Jo, I’m not going to give you £10 – I’m just going to pay your whole air fare!’ They were all very supportive.

“So I got a flight to Luton, a train to Bedford and then a taxi to Yarl’s Wood all on my own to get her back. Luckily we had a very nice judge who was kind and said ‘I think she’s been shut up for far too long – take her home!'”

Kushi in her bedroom at Jo’s flat in Glasgow. (Megan McEachern).

Having had her asylum claim refused previously, Khushi is currently waiting on the results of a fresh claim. The only money she has is a small allowance from PAIH.

She escaped Pakistan with little but her life after her family disowned her for marrying the man she loved. She was intended for another man, whose family threatened to murder her after she disobeyed the arrangement. Her husband, a chef, stayed in Pakistan and still believes it is too unsafe for Khushi to return. The couple haven’t seen each other in five years and they have no idea if they will ever see each other again.

“My husband is the first person who was kind to me,” said Khushi.

“In Glasgow, with Jo, my heart is happy, but I still miss him very much. It’s hard for us to talk often as he has to pretend he doesn’t know where I am for my safety.”

Although she’s had to go through much hardship, Khushi says her life with Jo has been a “God send,” and the lengths of kindness she has gone to for her are immeasurable. But it is reciprocated.

“Khushi is the most considerate and generous person and always tries to repay me with the very little she has,” said Jo.

“Last week she got me a beautiful vase from a charity shop. It was only 99p but I’m forever telling her not to spend anything on me. She also got me a red handbag after I said I liked one she has, so now we match!

“Whenever she finally gets her decision from the Home Office and has to leave, I’ll miss her. But I don’t think we’ll ever lose touch.”

“Khushi is the most considerate and generous person and always tries to repay me with the very little she has,” said Jo.

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