I was made homeless 11 days after the Asylum decision I waited 16 years for

I was made homeless 11 days after the Asylum decision I waited 16 years for
After spending years waiting for a decision on his refugee status torture survivor Gideon discovered his traumatic fight for security was far from over.

Missing Voices is a new series from Huck centring and platforming the voices of those ignored or left out of some of the biggest debates in politics.

When you’ve gone through the things I’ve been through, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You don’t even know if you’ll be alive. I fled my home country in Africa and came to the UK in 2008. When I got here, I felt relieved – I was in the land where freedom is enshrined, where people can work hard and achieve things for themselves. That’s what I was hoping.

But I quickly found out that it wouldn’t be like that. It was not easy at all, and I was confused. I didn’t know where to go or how to ask for help. The realisation hit me that I’d need help to work, to live, even to get a room. I came here with nothing and relied entirely on hand outs.

It took sixteen long years for me to receive my notification of the right to remain. I’ve had so many problems with the Home Office, and I had to live in limbo for so much longer. And this was the worst period of my life. When you don’t know what’s happening, when your life is in someone else's hands, and you really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. It’s scary not knowing what the Home Office will say, or when they’ll say it. You don’t know where to go, I was constantly looking behind my back. I didn’t want to go out, I found it hard to speak to people. It was like I was living in hiding; I didn't want to be too exposed because I was afraid about what might happen to me.

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The system doesn’t allow you to work so you can’t rebuild your life. Even things like accessing further education was difficult because of my lack of status. When your claim is being processed, you must rely on the Home Office for everything. And living in Home Office hotels was the worst experience because of my history of being in enclosed spaces where I wasn’t allowed to leave. Some of the hotels were hell and took me back to those dark times of my life. I really thought sometimes I'd be better off dead.

The hotels are in a way like another type of detention. In some of them you can’t leave for hours. You can’t even control what’s on the TV. You feel like you’re under constant surveillance. It’s day in, day out. And a year turned into two years. The circular nature of life in hotels is depressing. It’s not like what people think, it’s not a luxury hotel. It’s bare, it’s cramped, it’s small.

When I finally got my refugee status it was the best feeling. But after going through so much, it was happiness mixed with sorrow. Especially when I think about all the other people who are still going through so much. It still sometimes doesn’t feel real, it’s taken me a long time to really believe it might almost all be over.

But then suddenly I got a letter saying I had to move out in 11 days. I was bounced around from emergency accommodation all over London. It felt like no one cared, or even bothered to dig into my file to see everything that I’ve been through. Nobody even looked at my medical history. Instead, I was told I was not a priority and there was no housing for me. But I was able to get support to appeal this decision. Although I’m still in temporary accommodation and don’t know what will happen next, without the support of charities like Freedom from Torture, I don’t know what would have happened to me.

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But what about all those people who don’t have a voice? Or who don’t have charities who can talk on their behalf? There are so many people like me out there who don’t have someone to stand up for them, to tell them they deserve better. We may have come here from other places, but we have human rights too.

When you’re vulnerable, in a depression or recovering from awful things, it’s hard to work out what to do. And trying to work out the UK asylum system is its own psychological torture. I’ve met so many people who’ve not had the support that I’ve had, people who’ve been living in such desperate situations and have nobody to help them. I know some people who’ve died by suicide because they just couldn’t go on. I think of these scary moments, and I know it could have been me so easily. People are hurting, people are dying, and their stories need to be heard as well.

When the news or politicians talk about refugees, they talk as if we’re aliens. They don’t put themselves in our shoes. We haven’t come from another planet, and we’re not an invasion. People must understand why refugees find themselves in this country: we’ve fled heinous acts and all we’re looking for is peace.

I don’t know why there is such unkindness towards refugees. All we want is safety, to work hard, and to feel secure. All the things we didn't have in our home countries. It’s time for a change. And I hope the next UK government starts to treat people humanely; to hear and decide our claims quickly; and we need to be able to work to support ourselves and our families. All we want is to feel assured, to feel wanted, to live in peace and safety. Just to live our lives once more.

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