How our systems dehumanise the most vulnerable
Anj Handa, who has recently been leading the campaign for Afusat, shares with us her recent blog about the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in the UK
The UK has signed up to international agreements such as the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and while it is party to these directives, it must consider applications for asylum. What our system does not appear to offer, is the right to dignity or compassion while people await their decisions.
Many have experienced extreme trauma in their countries of origin, which is why they are seeking protection in the first place. The harshness with which they are treated has shocked me. Of course, the UK cannot offer every single applicant leave to remain, but it can make the process less traumatic.
Afusat, for example, has used her Christian faith to keep her going. She has depression and I’ve witnessed some very low times, but her beliefs and her concern for her girls have kept her afloat. She tells me that she’s seen those who lack spirituality to offer them succour, rapidly decline. Often, they begin talking to themselves as they have no higher entity to appeal to, and very limited networks from whom to draw emotional support.
I recently received an email from a lady whose experience is similar to Afusat’s. She tells it far better than I can, so here is her account below:
“Anj, I don’t know if there is any advice you can give to me, but I just felt like sharing my story. The more people know about what asylum seekers go through, the better. No one seeking refuge should have to go through what we are going through all, in the name of not having enough evidence. What evidence is there of rape [that took place in the past]?
I was on the internet, when I came across the story of Afusat Saliu and I was just so shocked on how similar our stories are. It which just goes to show that these are the things happening to us, which the Home Office is refusing to believe. There is just possibly no way anyone can make these sorts of stories up.
I claimed asylum in 2010, because my life is in danger from my evil stepfather, who beat my mother into an early grave. I was lucky to have survived his repeated violence and rape on myself, but he then decided to circumcise my daughter, who was two years’ old at the time.
My case dragged on. All the while, I was an emotional wreck, with every knock on the door and the sound of the letterbox adding more and more to my psychological trauma. I was diagnosed as depressed and started on antidepressants.
Then I got a refusal from the Home Office saying I was not credible enough. I appealed against the decision but was still overturned in court. The Judge believed what I said. She said she did not want my daughter to hear my story of rape and circumcision.
I have undergone a lot of changes since I got to this country. My English was very basic and I was just a young naive girl who didn’t believe in herself. I have been constantly told that I am useless and won’t amount to anything in life.”
This lady’s story is unfortunately too common. I’m pleased that she reached out to me as although I couldn’t offer her much advice, I was able to show her love and care. There are some lines from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Dictator’s Speech, which feel appropriate to end with:
“Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural!”
This blog is reprinted with permission from Anj Handa’s website.