Tony waited years for his asylum claim to be decided. We spoke to him about his experience, his future, and how he can use his experience to educate and help others who have similar experiences going through the asylum system. He also spoke about his views of asylum policy and the direction it is heading. We urge the government to listen to him, and others who have experienced it first-hand.
How does it feel to have refugee status after all these years?
When my solicitor called me, I was screaming I was so happy. I have been through a lot. I am so happy that I have my status. I now know that I have a very bright future ahead of me. I can go back to college or uni, start everything again. I have everything ahead of me again. If you are still in the system waiting for the process, you are still happy but worried about the outcome. But once you have status, the joy and future plans start working for you straight away.
My friend told me I can travel to any countries and I said why would I go back to Ghana, it was not good for me. I want to fight for others like me. I wouldn’t go back there unless it completely changed.
I am very happy for the outcome. The law that they are bringing is not going to help in any way. It’s not fair. The only thing I can think of. I remember at one time they were telling Ghanaians and other countries to legalise LGBT, and they said that if they didn’t, they wouldn’t help those countries with money. But they don’t realise that it’s not the government, it’s the individuals, it’s the people who don’t allow LGBT people to exist.
What do you think about the government’s policy to refuse applications from any country that they consider to be safe?
That is very bad. I can use myself as an example. With all that I have been going through for these years. I cannot go back to my country. The US and UK have tried to make LGBT legal in my country, but the people are saying no. The government can implement it, but if the chief and kings there don’t say yes, it won’t help. And I know a few people who are in the same situation as me from Ghana, and it’s hard for them to even come out here. Only a few people here know about my situation, otherwise I can’t talk about it. People are still begin killed in Ghana for coming out as LBGT. So telling people that they can’t be refugees is not going to help at all. The government has to know that nobody decides the sexuality that you are, you are born with it, and you start to know it as you are growing up and becoming an adult. Many people can’t talk about these kinds of things in the Ghanaian and Nigerian communities for example. I don’t understand their point that Ghanaians can’t claim asylum from those backgrounds. It’s a wrong law which they are trying to bring in. many people will be very disappointed and let down.
One of the things I want to do now is to educate lots of Ghanaians to show them that they can do this, that they can come out, and use myself as an example. I go to charities and hardly see people coming forward because they are scared to come out. It’s something that I really want to do, to educate especially Ghanaians and Nigerians as I know what they are going through, I have been around these communities. I don’t think this is right in any sense.
Now that I know this the next step I want to do is to try to help other Ghanaians and others from west African countries to show them there is an opportunity to be who they are, to stop hiding their sexuality and everything. I am tired of hiding, I went through this but it was not easy. It was years that I was going through this process.
I want people to know, I want them to make it clear that this is where I come from and I was one of the lucky ones.
If somebody is able to fight and to come here, then what is the point? Someone comes to live their life here and then you say no, because of their country? That is totally unfair.
It wasn’t easy coming out and telling my family and friends, but I had to do it because it’s who I am.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to the government about the asylum system:
The asylum system in Britain to be honest is very poor and very very bad. Because unlike in other countries, you are not allowed to work. When I was waiting for a decision I couldn’t work. It’s only recently that I heard that if you are in the system for a year you can apply for a work permit but even then, the hours that you can do and the jobs that you can do are limited.
Most people that apply for asylum are educated in the country that they came from. And most people have anything to do in the day time or in the night time. They just hang around. But if they were allowed to work, then the government wouldn’t be saying that there aren’t enough people in the country to do the jobs. There are a lot of people in the country, especially asylum seekers – because I’ve been in the system a long time – there are a lot of people that are skilled. And because the government says that they can’t work, they are just hanging around. They could be helping the country a lot.
Because the money they give you in the hotel accommodation, they give you £9 a week. Excuse me, you can’t even buy a week bus pass. So how do they expect people to go round, and do their personal things, to buy their hygiene, to buy the food that they want to eat. You can’t do anything. But if they are allowed to work, they can help, and the government can keep the £9. The government could say, ok, I’ve stopped giving you the £9, now you have to work, earn your own money. That would be very helpful. And a lot of asylum seekers are ready to work, to look after themselves, and take care of their families. That’s the main thing the government has to look at.