Written submission by Refugee Council (NBB0044)
On 8 September, the JCHR heard oral evidence from people with lived experience of the UK’s asylum system. This submission is written to provide a further perspective from someone who has been waiting for several years for a decision on their asylum claim.
Marie, a woman currently in the UK’s asylum system
I came to the UK in 2001 as a student, to study English with the plan to return to my country after a few years. I was previously an administrative secretary.
A war started in my country in 2002 and it wasn’t possible to return. In 2004, my Uncle who had supported me financially, passed away. In 2006 I needed to renew my visa, and I had decided to move to France with my partner, because I had no connections in the UK.
At that point, I submitted paperwork to the Home Office who had told me not to travel while they processed it. Since then I have received nothing from the Home Office. Seven months after submitting the application, I started chasing it, but I still didn’t hear anything. Since then, they have retained my passport and it has never been returned. It has been 15 or 16 years.
Since then I lost everything. My relationship was broken, I had a letter from the Home Office that let me work, but then it was considered old and I couldn’t work anymore.
I had no money and had to beg for money from people to contact the Home Office and provide them with details of my case. I have been sofa surfing for most of the time since then.
My current circumstances
I was living on the streets and the council wouldn’t house me because I didn’t have papers. Eventually I was supported by British Red Cross to access my own home and financial support. I have been living there since December 2020 and it has been a lifeline. If it was not for the British Red Cross and the charity called WYDAN I wouldn't be in home today.
Once I’d been in the UK for twenty years, the Home Office offered me two years limited leave to remain, on the basis of my private life, but I said no, I need my passport and I want compensation. I came here when I was 29. During the time I have been trapped in the UK, I lost father, and one of my daughters. I can’t send anything to my family, I can’t work.
The Home Office won’t tell me why they have my passport. I’ve not committed any crimes or done anything wrong. They didn’t protect me as a poor woman.
If I had known what would happen, I would never have come to the UK. When I was growing up, it was my dream country. After twenty years I have nothing to show for my life, it has been destroyed. I don’t have a positive view of the UK anymore.
On the separation from her family
When I talk about it, then I get mad and I don't want to cry, because my children cannot make a life for themselves.
This destroyed my life and destroyed my children’s life. It has been very painful for them. I can’t put them through school, I can’t afford to pay the scholarship because my country is very dangerous now.
On the Nationality and Borders Bill
It is a very bad, it is a is a nightmare for people, and I feel sorry for my brothers and sisters, like those coming from Afghanistan. This is discrimination, not protection of human rights.
The system has to change, first, not for me or my kids, but the system must change for people, young people, women with children, pregnant women.
We don’t’ come to take benefits. We come to make a better life, and also to contribute to the development of the land that received us. So the Government must have compassion and mercy.