“Moving to the UK changed my life.” Chinese refugee shares her story 36 years on

Tieubinh Tien has lived in the UK since 1986. For Refugee Week she reflects on her transition from life in Vietnam and China to England.
Tieubinh Tien in front of her apartment

Mum of three, Tieubinh Tien has lived in the UK since 1986, and met with Pine Court Housing Association to reflect on her transition from life in Vietnam and China to England in celebration of Refugee Week.

In 1978 Ms Tien lived in Vietnam with her then husband and two-year-old son, working in fabric factories and making shoes. At just 23 years old, she was forced to flee from racist attacks in post-war Vietnam. The young family sought refuge in mainland China in 1978, and later moved to a refugee camp in Hong Kong.

Reflecting on this time in her life, Ms Tien said: “I was riddled with fear and unable to sleep due to the [Vietnam] War. We had no choice but to flee and were fearful of the future with no idea what was going to happen tomorrow. All we had was each other and the community of people who also lived in the camp.”

Three months following the birth their daughter in 1986, with their son then ten years old, the family were granted asylum in England and travelled from Hong Kong to the Wirral where they settled in Rock Ferry. They then welcomed the birth of their third child in 1987.

To help the family settle into life in England, the government sponsored Ms Tien and her husband onto an ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages) course at Wirral Met College, which supported her into employment within the hospitality sector.

Sue Higginson, principal at Wirral Met College said: “We are proud to support refugees and our experienced ESOL staff support students to gain the communications skills they need for life in the UK. Over 40 different first languages are spoken at Wirral Met – we are proud to have played a small role in helping establish refugees in their new lives locally.”

The family of five were one of Pine Court Housing Association’s first customers when the organisation was formed and lived in a home in Birkenhead until 2010 when Ms Tien and her husband divorced. Following the divorce from her husband, she moved to one of the housing association’s apartments in Liverpool’s Great George Square.

Ms Tien went on to speak about how appreciative she was: “Moving to the UK changed my life, I am so appreciative. It was exciting to have a future we could look forward to, with a safe place to stay and enjoy life.”

She added: “I love where I live, the location is great and my neighbours are lovely, it is nice and quiet. Pine Court are a very good organisation and look after the whole community, not just their customers.”

Ms Tien is now retired and lives in one of Pine Court Housing Association’s independent living schemes and spends her spare time as part of the housing association’s Customer Empowerment Panel and Chinese dance group who most recently performed as part of celebrations during the Platinum Jubilee.

David Brown, Director at Pine Court Housing Association said: “We are all about creating opportunities and changing lives here at Pine Court, as we build diverse, inclusive communities where our customers can thrive. It is inspiring to hear all about Ms Tien’s life and how moving to the UK was transformational for her family. We always enjoy attending events and seeing her dance group perform during community celebrations.”

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