I have written this testimony after several interviews with the man it belongs to, converting his rudimentary English into written sentences. He has asked to stay anonymous in case it affects his claim, or his safety should he ever be deported. He is a Kurdish Iraqi man in his 40s.
For a refugee, many people believe your journey ends when you reach a safe country. I am here to tell you it does not. As much as I needed to believe that when I left Iraq – where I was persecuted for my Shia faith – now I must accept the truth. The UK will not be a sanctuary for me until I have suffered so much that I no longer want it.
I have been waiting for asylum in the UK for three years, having crossed the Channel from Calais. My application was rejected a year and a half ago, but I had to appeal it because if I go home I’ll be killed, just as my entire family was. The government may not call me a refugee, but what is a refugee if not that?
I am lonely here. I don’t meet many locals because my English is broken and I can’t access schooling. I am also not allowed to work. After videos came out showing British people harassing asylum seekers, knocking on doors and beating them up, I am too scared to even leave the flat. There is nothing for me to do all day but dwell on the uncertainty of my future and watch my present become my past.
Sometimes, I imagine my life is happening in a football stadium. Everyone is sitting in the seats spectating, and my fate is the game. To get asylum, you must describe the horrors you have seen. These things are unimaginable: corpses upon corpses and pools of bloods and the empty eyes of the people you love. You try to explain, but it is so difficult for people to understand. Whether they believe you or not is a lottery. I have done this many times now: to translators, to Home Office officials, to lawyers, to judges. Now to you. Again and again I have presented my problem, and I have had to sit silently as Home Office representatives tell the judge it’s not true. They say everything they can to persuade the judge not to let me stay, as I sit there in despair. Even if the judge believes me, the Home Office can protest their decision and present more evidence against me within 14 days.
I feel so low. Some days it’s unbearable. I’m sorry to put my sadness on your shoulders. But there would be no point in me telling you this if I sugarcoated the truth. Maybe with lockdown, you can understand what it is like for asylum seekers to wait, alone, inside, with no knowledge of when the next chapter will start, or what it will look like. Maybe if you feel my sorrow you will ask for a more humane system.
It’s clever, this system of asylum. It is so difficult, so long, so painful. It kills your soul slowly, so by the time they must make a decision, there is no one left inside you. So many people give up. They kill themselves or join the black market and live without existing. I’m still here. But I have no idea what will come of it.
Things you can do
Share this piece to make sure S.J. Goran is heard.
Via Refugees At Home you can open your spare room to an asylum seeker or refugee, combating the loneliness and disorientation many feel going through this process unsupported.
The #LiftTheBan campaign aims to lift the barriers to asylum seekers working, allowing people to cross the poverty line and find purpose and sociability in their transitional life, which is well over six months for the majority of UK applicants. That backlog has ballooned during the pandemic. Refugee Action has put together this detailed action briefing to help you engage your MP, local decision makers and the media in this fight. At its simplest, you can email your MP.