Trapped. Not free to return home, nor free to make a new one. It's the situation that hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants face in the UK today.

If ever you were tempted to discount their claims as bogus attempts to sponge off the state, a photography exhibition now on at the Host Gallery in Islington could change your mind.

"It's been the most emotionally draining project of my life," says ex-Telegraph photojournalist Abbie Trayler-Smith, who has reported in disaster zones from Haiti to Zimbabwe.

Working for the past 12 months with journalist Diane Taylor, they are now ready to reveal dozens of untold stories from the men and women who live in a legal limbo here in the UK.

"Even after a day or two listening to some of their stories I felt like I had nothing left in me," Abbie says.

"To imagine that this is what they have gone through for years is incredible, it's amazing that they haven't given up on life."

One such story is that of 20-year-old Thania, from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She spent a year sleeping rough at Euston Station when she arrived in the UK in September 2004. Her poverty became so unbearable that she turned to begging and prostitution.

"I couldn't think properly because I was so hungry," she told Abbie and Diane. What she was running from was worse. Congolese soldiers had murdered her parents and after being raped she was forced to watch her brother burned to death by having a tyre set alight around his neck.

Thania escaped, but her asylum claim upon arrival in the UK was refused (denying her the right to work) until two months ago - nearly five years later.

"It's been a dark journey of discovery for me," says Abbie.

"But moments such as Thania being granted 'leave to remain' are pockets of joy."

Now Thania has the right to work; power to avoid exploitation by unscrupulous employees; access to medical care and the ability to pay tax.

Abbie is the first to acknowledge that not all asylum claims are genuine, but when faced with stories such as Thania's she says: "It's written in the scars on their bodies and you can see it in their eyes."

London Mayor Boris Johnson told BBC's Panorama last week that if it does look as though they (illegal immigrants) could make a contribution to society, we should regularise their status, confirming the changing tide in re-evaluating the laws which govern the 300,000-750,000 undocumented migrants estimated to be living in the UK.

Proposals led by community-based campaign groups such as Strangers into Citizens are pushing the possibility of granting a one-off amnesty for undocumented migrants who have lived in the UK for more than four years.

Criteria include a two-year probation period; an English test; a clean criminal record and references from employers and members of the community.

The details are in the balance, but the main aim is to deal with an issue which is not going away.

All parties accept it would cost billions of pounds and take decades to successfully prosecute and deport all of the UK's undocumented migrants.

So far 93 MPs are backing the Strangers into Citizens-led re-think and an awareness march is organised for Trafalgar Square on May 4.

"We claim to be a civilized society, but if we don't take care of the vulnerable among us, how can we?" Abbie asks. If you want to find out more, this is the time.

Still Human, Still Here, photographs by Abbie Trayler-Smith, text by Diane Taylor, is at the Host Gallery, 1 Honduras Street, Islington, until April 4. Free. Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-4pm. Call 020 7253 2770. See

For the Host Gallery's sister publication and website see