My life as an LGBTQ asylum seeker in the UK

My life as an LGBTQ asylum seeker in the UK
Although the UK is more tolerant than the country they fled, the government's persecution of migrants and LGBTQ people, as well as the labyrinthine asylum system, continues to make torture survivor King feel unsafe.

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. 

Back in my home country I was persecuted and tortured. They not only attacked my identity as an LGBTQIA+ person, but my very existence as a human being. Because of what happened to me, I had to flee my home and leave everything behind.

My life before was a very dark place. I was openly persecuted, abused and violated all because I refused to conform to the rule of a cruel government. I found myself in complete desperation and despair, struggling with physical and severe mental trauma.

Right now, I’m more settled in my mind. But I still experience flashbacks of the darker times in my life. But I do now see hope in my future. For the first time, I have ambition to focus my life on contributing to society and giving back to other people who’ve experienced torture and persecution.

Being an LGBTQIA+ person in the UK has been a wonderful experience for me – it’s such a complete night and day situation from where I’ve come from. Before I lived in fear constantly as there is danger at every corner should you ever reveal your true self in anyway.

Since I’ve been in the UK, I’ve been able to take part in Pride marches. And I’ve felt totally elated. I’ve been so happily surprised to be generally accepted by the British public – many of whom join the marches and show their unconditional support. I’ll never forget the first Pride march I took part in. I painted and carried colourful banners and placards, sending a clear message of love and acceptance.

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Although this Government is more tolerant than the one I fled from, some of the things I hear the people in power saying frightens me. Just last year, the then Home Secretary Suella Braverman said that ‘being gay is not enough to claim asylum’ and that many people are lying about their sexuality to “game” the UK asylum system.

I was so incredibly saddened to hear this. LGTBQIA+ people are tortured in many countries around the world for who they are and who they love. Their pain is no less than any other refugee. And we deserve precisely the same protection too.

When things like this happen, it feels like all my fear – like a noose around my neck – is once again tightening. I’m not only scared for myself, but for other refugees who face the very real threat of being returned to unbearable discrimination, persecution, oppression, and in some cases even death. Comments like this really highlight the complete lack of compassion and understanding by the current UK Government.

The anti-refugee rhetoric and sentiment in the UK sometimes threatens to send me into the depths of despair. It makes me feel like I’m in a dingy in the sea bouncing along holding onto the ropes as another wave of hopelessness hits me. It can feel like the people in charge of this government only want to punish us – people like me who’ve fled war and torture – and pretend like we’re not just human beings trying to find a safe harbour, recover, rebuild our lives, and contribute to society.

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Can there not be more understanding on how difficult the UK asylum system is for people who’ve fled unimaginable things? It’s such a yoyo experience – to not know for sometimes years on end where you might stand, or what might happen next. I can’t tell you the tremendous impact that this has had on my physical and mental wellbeing. Waiting in limbo for a decision on my claim is the hardest thing.

The UK has historically been a beacon for justice and fairness which has now been totally thrown aside. The Government is now driving people away from these shores no matter what the cost. The people who are arriving are men, women and children who’ve already been through so much. History will judge the UK harshly on this and how it continues to destroy the very foundation of British justice and international law.

I have seen with my own eyes and experienced that most people in the UK are kind and want the people fleeing indescribable horrors to be treated with compassion. I’ve also seen how the British public are turning away from the Government’s cruelty – just a few weeks ago we saw how many people turned up stop the Home Office immigration round ups in London. Even when so many are experiencing personal difficulties with the cost-of-living crisis and the gross unfairness in our society, all they want to do is extend a hand of love and understanding. If it were not for this – and for the various organisations like Freedom From Torture who’ve supported me over the years – I don’t think I could have gone on.

King is a client at Freedom from Torture


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