A Rohingya who came in Bradford as refugee under the Gateway Protection Program in 2009 along with his mother and siblings. Now he is a restaurant owner and a full-time carer for his mum – has spoken of both his struggle and his success, as he continues to try and provide for his family.
Mohammed Yasin, 25, opened Sizzling Lounge in Bingley in December last year, working seven days a week, with his business acting as a “lifeline” for his mother and younger siblings. Yasin grew up in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, before moving to Bradford at the age of 13.
He grew up in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, before moving to Bradford. “The camp is a restricted area – in places like that, you can’t even dream”, he said.
“The conditions are unbelievable. There are little kids everywhere begging, I still cry when I think about it.”
He said his upbringing was “hard”, especially as he grew up without his father, who died when he was five.
Yasin arrived in the UK “without being able to speak any English”, and said it was a “challenging” time where he often experienced “racism and bullying”.
Things got even harder for him when his mother, who was still in Bangladesh at the time, suffered “serious injuries” in a road traffic accident in 2014.
With the help of local Rohingya community and fundraisers, Yasin’s mum was able to join him in Bradford, although she remains “very weak” and still needs full-time care.
“Things have been hard, especially earlier this year with Covid, but it’s just about surviving,” said Yasin, who lives in the Otley Road area.
“My business is a lifeline for me. I have had a lot of debts, and the benefits aren’t enough. I think more support is needed.
“I work seven days a week, and before, I was balancing that with going to college five days a week, too. It’s been a hard journey, but I have to do this to survive. It’s all about work and family, that’s it.”
From the age of 16 onwards, Yasin was also a bodybuilder, winning the ‘Mr Bradford’ competition in 2017, and also being the runner-up – on two occasions – at the international Face of the World competition.
“My dream was to keep pursuing bodybuilding and modelling, but I had to stop for the sake of my family”, he said.
“My life was different before, I used to travel a lot too, but I have to stay around for my mum now.”
Yasin admits that business has not been easy so far: “Sizzling Lounge is still new, and we opened in lockdown, so people don’t really know us”, he said.
“But our customers are lovely – they give me a lot of hope.
“We do Indian, Bengali and Burmese food – it’s a mix, really.
“Our customers are always supporting us and encouraging us, so that’s really nice.”
Having been in Bradford for 12 years, Yasin says he now considers the city as his “home”.
“The UK saved my life and gave me and my family opportunities”, he said.
“I love living in Bradford and I would never want to move away. I’m grateful to this city.”
Last year, Yasin also went back to the refugee camp he grew up in, where he donated food and money to the people there.
“I want to help out wherever I can. The people there were so happy when I visited and donated, and I want to give them hope for the future”, he said.
“It’s hard over there. I still have a lot of family and friends in the camp, and they don’t have the same facilities that we have here.”
Despite the challenges he has faced in his life, Yasin remains optimistic about the future.
“Being a refugee was tough, but everything is possible if you work and study hard”, he said.
“Nothing is easy – but you have to get through the hard times. You can’t just sit back, you have to work, and then you will achieve your dreams.”