“It’s important to feel safe”: a survivor's story this Refugee Week

This #RefugeeWeek2019, we’re featuring a survivor’s story a day so you can learn about the experiences of a variety of people who have survived torture as they try to rebuild their lives here in the UK. We’ll be hearing about stories of Home Office and asylum support challenges to stories about threat of detention and hopes for the future. 

By Hope, a member of our creative writing group Write to Life*

When I first arrived in this country, I didn’t know I was coming here. They told me I was in England, and I thought it would be a safer place than my country.

For me, it’s very important to feel safe. After everything I have been through with torture and leaving my home and family behind, I hoped and expected to feel safe here in the UK. But there is more pressure.

When I got here, I didn’t feel safe. Even now, I don’t feel entirely safe, because I’m an asylum-seeker. There are lots of difficulties. It’s very hard to work with the Home Office. Before you apply, you need to pay a lot of money and it takes a very long time. It’s harder with children.

When I first spoke to the Home Office, they gave me a terrible interpreter. I didn’t know any English and I placed my trust in them. And then I realised when the report came back, they had interpreted everything I said incorrectly and I was refused asylum. They didn’t tell my story and they got it wrong. My solicitor tried to send the right version, but the Home Office wouldn’t listen. They got things like my name and date of birth wrong and to this day, they won’t change it.

When I have an appointment with the Home Office, I don’t sleep that week. They make you come in on the same day of the month. My heart starts beating fast because you don’t know what will happen. You can go to the appointment and never come back.

When I have an appointment with the Home Office, I don’t sleep that week. They make you come in on the same day of the month. My heart starts beating fast because you don’t know what will happen. You can go to the appointment and never come back. I was very scared. And they treat you like you’re not a human being. They can respond to you in any way they want.

I was detained in Yarl’s Wood for one year. I didn’t commit a crime, I didn’t do anything bad. And I find myself in detention. I felt so humiliated.

Eight immigration officers came to my house one Sunday morning. I was sleeping at the time and had prepared to go to church that day. I had laid out my clothes the night before. At 7am, they knocked at my door and told me my case had finished and that I had to go back to my country. They didn’t even give me time to change from my nightgown. They handcuffed me and I went to detention without shoes. I was so embarrassed.

You have to start all over again. It’s not easy. I am trying to rebuild my life but I am not there yet. I am on track, but it’s not easy.

In my country, I finished my degree. I was working as an administrator and I could use computers – I was a different person back then. After torture, and coming here, I lost all my confidence – I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know the culture. You feel like a beginner or a child going to school. You have to start all over again. It’s not easy. I am trying to rebuild my life but I am not there yet. I am on track, but it’s not easy.

I hope that one day I will be able to work as an administrator in an office. I just want to rebuild my life. I get low moments and I feel like a no one right now, but I want to be hopeful for the future. My wish is for my children to work hard at school and never have to face what I have been through. I want them to have a better life and settle in this country. They are born here, they belong here. One of my children says he wants to be a lawyer. I say, whatever you do, you do the right thing.

*Names have been changed to protect people's identity

We want to make as much noise as we can this Refugee Week because we want to live in a country that is certain torture is always wrong. A place that believes in compassion and fairness. A place that welcomes people who have survived torture.

If you share this vision, stay tuned for our social media activity and sign the declaration to make the UK #ASafePlace this Refugee Week. 

The UK has a proud tradition of offering safety to people fleeing torture and persecution.  But times are uncertain and these values are under threat. It's time to take a stand. Will you sign our declaration and join us?

SIGN THE DECLARATION