Millions of people around the world have been forced to flee their homes for socio-economic and political reasons. This paper explores the early settlement experiences of highly educated Eritrean refugees in the UK. It is a phenomenological study informed by narrative interviews with 24 Eritrean refugees who gained a university degree in Eritrea, before migrating to the UK. The participants of this study are what Bauman (1996) calls ‘vagabonds’ who mainly left their country due to the lengthy national service, human rights abuses and/or the political situation of the country. They chose the UK, as their final destination, for its democratic principles and English language. Furthermore, they hoped to receive asylum and start their lives anew within a very short time. Hence, they were happy to reach the UK following a long, costly and risky route. However, contrary to their hope and expectations, some of the circumstances they find exposed them to humiliation, powerlessness, uncertainty, and other difficult conditions. Despite they did not face any overt discrimination, many felt humiliated for seeking asylum. In addition, delays in asylum decisions, cultural differences and the loneliness and exclusion they faced in the UK made them vulnerable. This further led to anxiety, psychological distress and integration paradox. The findings indicate that asylum seekers have less control over their life and future until their asylum application is accepted. This study contributes to a better understanding of refugees’ experiences from their stories.

DOI: 10.1007/s12134-021-00883-5
ISSN: 1488-3473