For each day of refugee week, we are showcasing five stories, letters, statements from people who have come to the UK to seek asylum. All have had vast set out what a more humane asylum system would look like. If the government wants to fix the mess that it has created, it desperately needs to listen to those directly affected.
We begin with a powerful letter to the Home Secretary by Leila*, who has been waiting over a year for a decision on her asylum claim.
Dear Home Secretary,
I came to the UK over four years ago, and claimed asylum over a year ago because it became unsafe for me in my home country. I want to bring to your attention a number of problems with the asylum system which I have experienced.
Since I claimed asylum over a year ago, I have only had the screening interview. Not the substantive interview. My children and my husband are still in my home country and they are not safe where they are, but it is not safe to move. We have no option, and because I do not yet have refugee status in the UK, I cannot bring them here. I am worried about their safety, and feeling guilty because my children are not with me, but it is not safe for me to go back to them.
Since I came to the UK, I have been safe, and I am grateful for that. However, I have experienced many problems.
After I claimed asylum, I lived in a hotel for one year. Let me tell you, it is not a luxury to live in a hotel. I struggled with my mental health, I wasn’t allowed to work. Even though I have 14 years’ experience working in the humanitarian field, in the UK I wasn’t allowed to do anything.
You don’t know how many horrible situations I was in, in the hotel, living alone, not eating, having illusion, always anxious and worrying about what will happen with me here, my children, what is my future, if I come back what will happen.
I lived one year in a hotel and after one year they relocated me. But you don’t know what I’ve been through. It was awful, I was always sending emails to Migrant Help and the Home Office. There is no access to the home Office to explain my story.
And why have I been waiting over a year for my second asylum interview? I have children, and my children are at risk in my home country. It feels like the Home Office doesn’t care about my children and their mental health, or my mental health.
We hear that the government is spending money on hotels. But where does this money go? The hotels are not clean. I have OCD and spend a lot of time cleaning on my own, there is no healthy food. I was healthy before but in this country I increased like 10 kilos and I have high cholesterol, back pain, menstrual problems, and I am taking medication for depression and sleeping. All of this is because of living in 2 hotels.
While I was living in the hotel, the Home Office provided me with £8 per week. What can I do? As a female living alone there are many things that I need and £8 is just not enough.
Since I moved out of the hotel, I am now on £45 per week. This is still not enough – it is impossible for me to travel to visit and support my sister. It would be better if you let me work, instead of force me to accept government aid of £45. I know that this country needs skilled people. Many asylum seekers are educated and they can support themselves, if you let them. Or you can train them to do the jobs that your country needs. Then the government wouldn’t have to pay this money to asylum seekers, they would be able to use their own money to support themselves, and pay taxes like any person in this country. I don’t know why they have this rule which has put my life back one year.
I have masters in psychology and I have wide experience working with different projects in the humanitarian field. I don’t know why. I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
I do not agree with your new policy to stop people claiming asylum. Because how can people who have protection concerns in their country, where they are at risk of harm, come here? This is the question. Because it is so difficult to enter this country. I came here because I have a job, I have an income, I have position, I have invitation from the government to come as a witness to support my sister. But if poepel didn’t have all these things, how can they reach this country to seek asylum? For sure, it’s very hard for them to do this. I don’t know how they reached this decision, or how they will take this decision, or what is going to happen to all these people.
Please, Home Secretary, let us proceed more quickly in the process of asylum. And to get the decision of yes or no, and if no then let people go to another safe place. Because they came here because they thought that this country would protect them. My request really is to proceed quickly in this process. People are struggling, doing nothing. And if people are going to have to wait 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, then maybe they can work. And those people would be useful for this country. Let them work until this decision can be taken. Everything is expensive here and £45 a week is nothing.