City Lit Blog

City Lit stories - Ilyaas Cader

Story added 28th Dec 2018

Ilyaas Cader and family


Ilyaas was born and grew up in Sri Lanka - the only Deaf person in his family.  Knowing that he wanted greater opportunities, he applied for a visa to London, but was refused.  He made the decision to come to Britain anyway, leaving behind a country at war.

The journey that followed was beyond harrowing.  Having flown to Russia with his cousin, they became part of a group travelling by night through the Ukraine forest on foot in the hands of people traffickers, sleeping by day, until they reached the German border some three months later. In Germany, Ilyaas was taken to the police station, and then to an asylum centre where he was completely isolated and had no means of communication, as a Sri Lankan Sign Language user and the only Deaf person there. 

Having made the decision to find his cousin, Ilyaas escaped from the asylum centre, planning to go to France.  It was a further three months before he arrived in Calais, thereafter managing to get to the UK and from there to London, where his brother was living.  So incredible was Ilyaas' story that it has formed the basis of a play, "Tanika's Journey", which was staged by Deafinitely Theatre earlier on this year

Ilyaas' brother helped him to meet other Deaf people, and he enrolled on a number of courses for Deaf adults at City Lit. He has since passed Entry level qualifications in English and Maths, his Level 3 in British Sign Language, and is working towards his Entry 2 qualification in English (Functional Skills).

In class, Ilyaas is an outstanding student, with an exemplary calm and committed attitude towards his study.  He works incredibly hard, and is always the first to notice other learners who may require encouragement and / or support, which he gives unobtrusively.  He is studying on the English Entry Level 2 course in order to improve his confidence in understanding and using vocabulary related to his work within the field of Mental Health.

Ilyaas is now able to remain in the UK permanently, and works full time as a Child Mental Health Worker for Deaf Children, Young People and Family Services within the NHS.  In doing so, not only is he supporting himself and his family, but he is also using his skills and expertise to help improve the lives of Deaf children and young adults in south London.  The amazing story of his journey across Europe is matched by the personal journey that he has made, in order to be in his current situation.  He is living proof that anything is possible with courage, persistence and determination, even despite incredible odds.

Read his interview on The Limping Chicken blog here

Ilyaas Cader with Gillian Anderson OBE, award winning actress and Lifetime Fellow of City Lit.