If the Home Office told me that they were going to send me to Rwanda, I would rather go back to my home country of Sudan, where I would inevitably be killed.
At least I’d be with my wife and kids there.
Having arrived in the UK in January this year, I’m under the threat of being deported to Rwanda, simply because I came to the UK in search of a better life. Why is the Home Office putting asylum seekers like me through this terrible ordeal?
Life in Sudan was bittersweet.
I got married four years ago and I have two beautiful boys – our family felt complete. I am university educated, and had my own company, house and car.
But as a backdrop to all of this, it’s not safe for my family.
The city is very dangerous because everyone is fighting and killing each other due to ongoing civil conflicts. It is also becoming very expensive. The water is not clean and there is often no electricity.
The Al-janjaweed (the Sudan militia, also called Rapid Support Forces) tried to recruit me. If you join them, you become a killer and a thief just like them. I want my boys to be proud of me – not ashamed – so I could never do it.
But if you are against them, you will get tortured and killed. It is an impossible situation, so that is why I had to leave.
When I was leaving, my idea wasn’t specifically to come to the UK – I just wanted to leave Sudan. A smuggler said he would get me to the UK.
I thought because I knew the language, I could start doing something soon. Never in my life did I think of trying to understand or familiarise myself with the asylum process here. I didn’t think I would need it.
When thinking about our plan for me to come to the UK, there was no way I was going to take my wife and children on the dangerous journey. I wanted to make it to a safe country and then bring them over via a secure route after I was settled.
The journey itself was incredibly tough. The smugglers take you and only Allah knows when and where you will end up. Sometimes you don’t end up anywhere.
I couldn’t imagine my kids on the journey with me – crying because it’s too cold, too hot, there’s not enough food, it smells too strong or there’s too much loud noise. Very bad, bad memories come to mind – some of which are too traumatic to talk about.
Some guys would come and shout for everyone to stop talking, while a big group of asylum seekers were not even able to breathe for the next 12 or 15 hours because there was an inspection. Often, we’d be in very tight spaces and sometimes you can’t even stand up or lie down. No man, woman, or child should have to go through that.
Thankfully, I made it to the UK in January and applied for asylum soon after.
Coming to the UK as an asylum seeker is very challenging. It takes a long time and during that time, you live in a hotel and are not allowed to do anything.
I just go walking everywhere – the park, centre of town, or the library to pick a good book and read. Sometimes I just start walking, I don’t know where I will go at the start.
I was placed in accommodation in Leeds – a very nice place, with good people. There is good food here, it is not expensive and every type of cuisine is available.
I have got used to Leeds now and have, for example, registered with a GP, college and volunteered in many places here as well as accessed local services, but I might be moved on to a totally new place.
Until you move from temporary housing and get status as a refugee, there is nothing you can do.
You also have to wait for god knows how long. For me, I have waited five months with no initial interview. For others, it’s longer.
I have thought a hundred times about withdrawing my claim. It’s not that I don’t want to stay here – it’s that I have two boys at home and I am really worried about them. But it’s taking so long.
Before now, I had never been separated from my children. Leaving them behind has been a huge strain on my wife, myself and the boys. But going back is not an option – I would be jailed or die.
Every time I contact a lawyer, they say that I need my section 95 – which will help provide subsistence and accommodation – to start processing my case. Without this, I cannot access an Asylum Support Enablement (Aspen) card – about £8 a week. You cannot do anything without money in this country.
On top of this, the Rwanda announcement makes me very worried and very afraid. I am thinking about my kids; if I go to Rwanda, what will happen to my boys?
It is a tense situation for all of us asylum seekers – people have started behaving differently in the hotel. All we talk about is what we’ll do if we are told we are going to Rwanda.
Everyone is thinking that the Government wants to send them back. People are afraid.
It is hard mentally, physically – everything. I have less energy. Yesterday, I slept for 10 hours because I couldn’t even find the energy to get out of bed.
There are flickers of hope though – Corinne from the Refugee Council is such a great help. Whenever she comes, everyone waits their turn to talk to her. She said she would get me a lawyer and she did.
There is an expression in Arabic, it is like you are drowning and you found a line of string. It won’t hold your weight, but you found something to give you hope. Corinne has given us hope.
I am not asking for a handout, I will work and I want to add something.
I have 15 years’ experience of computing, management and leadership roles. I used to run a company and manage every department in it – if it was not my major, I would just learn it. I can do a lot of things.
While I wait for a decision, I will be volunteering with the Refugee Council and supporting people seeking asylum to adjust to life as an asylum seeker in the UK.
Advice coming from me as a fellow asylum seeker should help them to understand what it’s actually like.
The UK is not our country but we wish they can accept us so that we can give back.
All I am asking for is a chance to have my family with me so I can have my peace of mind and start doing something good for my family and this country.
Immigration Nation is a series that aims to destigmatise the word ‘immigrant’ and explore the powerful first-person stories of people who’ve arrived in the UK – and called it home. If you have a story you’d like to share, email james.besanvalle@H10News.in