I’m still writing regularly, but it’s become very introspective, which has been extremely interesting for myself but I don’t particularly feel the need to share everything that I’ve discovered. It’s good to keep some cards close. However, this blog’s still here, just ticking away, a little time capsule of Calais. Recently, I took a case study for my work at Scottish Refugee Council, and spent an hour listening to B. pour his heart out to me about the impact of destitution on his health and life. I couldn’t do his words justice on Scottish Refugee Council’s website, where I had to cut thousands of words down to just 400 or so, and whilst I got all the powerful quotes it misses the nuances of his experience. So, with his permission, here is B.’s story.
I want to talk about something I hear about all the time. “Human Rights”. Human rights in Western countries is a business. It’s business for solicitors, for lawyers, some NGOs, for people working in its name. But I would say that, in reality, human rights have been ignored. I remember back home, if somebody comes from another place, another city, to my village, even if I don’t know him or don’t know his name – I will still respect him, give him shelter, give him his “human rights”, but I will not make a big noise saying “I respect human rights”, I’ll just do what I can.
This is no life. Begging for food, begging for shelter, begging for stuff, not being allowed to work, sometimes they lock you out of your home, sometimes they give you a warning letter. ”Human rights” in this country is just for politicians and for business. They’ve never really believed in human rights, and never will. It’s a game.
If they believe in human rights, why would they stop the support that people are receiving? Why won’t they allow people to work? What can someone do when they get forced to leave the property they’re living in? The UK is tougher – it’s an island, we can’t leave without a passport.
My neighbour has more respect towards his dog than the Home Office has towards us. But we’re all human beings. Nobody can deny that. God created us with a different colour, different religion maybe, different country, but at the end of the day we’re all human beings.
I have been living in the UK for 8 years. I haven’t seen my mum, my family for 8 years. My dad is living in London, but he is depressed, we can’t live together. I moved to Scotland last year. I’ve really missed my family for the past 8 years. It’s really hard. This Christmas past, everybody was celebrating, having parties, having fun, having a good time with friends and relatives. I swear to God I was hungry at home and I had nothing. Because the Home Office, on 28th November, they stopped everything. I survive with help from friends sometimes, from my flatmate sometimes, but it’s really hard.
If you are ever in this situation, this is how you’ll feel. You will miss your family, you will miss your relatives, your childhood friends, and mostly, you will miss your mum. I swear to God, I don’t live for papers or a house or for fun things, I live for my mum. She said to me “your life is in danger, leave, I can’t see you in trouble.” My whole family fled the country. And now I’m running around begging for food every day. I didn’t choose this life. I expected better. If they allowed people to work, crime would fall dramatically.
My mum told me two things: “Do not lie. It doesn’t matter what happens on your journey, but do not lie. And do not do anything illegal. If you make illegal money, or make a life or money with a lie, or establish something for me or your family on a lie, I do not want that money.” My mum’s words always come into my mind, even when the Home Office cut my money and I have nothing.
Your country is your mother. You must always be respectful towards her. Scotland is my mother. If I did something illegal, something wrong, she would be ashamed. I’d be banished.
I want to get married, to think forward, to plan for the future. Imagine not seeing your mum for ten years, what are you going to think? She gave birth to me, looked after me, now she’s getting old. But I cannot even help myself, how can I help my family?
I respect everyone, as one family. Mostly people have helped us, but I cannot help myself. The Home Office is very strong.
Right to Work
We’ve got no land to grow for ourselves, no family businesses, nothing. At least we don’t have security problems and live in peace, but we live in hunger…it’s hard to explain…we’re not allowed to work, we have to go for appointments all the time, begging. If we work illegally we’ll be kicked out. We’re exploited, paid £10 for 15 hours work, treated like animals. Selling drugs is illegal. If you do that, you give a bad name to all asylum seekers and refugees, and your home country. I have seen people who have documents doing illegal stuff, who say “the Home Office have made me hard, they’ve taught me all I need to know.” I say how? They say “I’ve been living here 5/6 years, people call me illegal. They stop everything for me. They tell me to leave the country, they kick me out the house, tell me to leave ‘voluntarily’.”
I’m a human being, I need to eat two/three times a day, I need tea, I need clothes, I need a haircut, I need to talk with my family. Just allow me to work. I will do everything else myself. I’m not saying I want everything given to me on a plate, I don’t. But allow me to work. You have made it law that I cannot work, that I’m not allowed to marry, how can I secure my future? It’s been eight years!
This life, I feel, is sometimes pointless. I feel like a burden on somebody. I have to keep asking for help and nothing changes, for years and years. I go to my doctor because things that happened to me years ago come to my mind in the night-time. I go there, they refer me to somebody else. I go there and they refer me yet again. And so on. My PTSD got worse here. I thought I would have a better life here but now I know I am wrong. If I had died back in Afghanistan, that would be better – I wouldn’t have had to deal with all of these problems.
Please, respectfully, let us work. Let us live a normal life for this country and these people. We will never forget it. We’ve been in a dark situation and we’ve made a move. We came here to share everything with you. People here are nice, respectful. But the Home Office make stupid decisions. I have been waiting 8/9 years, just wandering the streets, killing time. I have no money to spend. I can’t go to nice places because they ask for a ticket, I can’t go to the clubs because they ask for ID.
I’m a human being, same as the French, the English, the Scottish, the German…and I have been here for a long time. I have a Western lifestyle, but they have money in their pockets and we have empty pockets. I still remember my country before, I didn’t ever think I’d have to leave. I was originally an interpreter with US forces in Afghanistan. I was earning well, I was eating well, I was living well. I could work, study, I had a secure future. Now I’m a grown man and the government takes my food money away, it’s shameful.
I can see nice shopping centres, nice buildings, nice cars, you know, but these are for Western people, not for me. But then I see older immigrants to the country, who have been here for a while and have been allowed to live, and I hope that things will get better because you can’t lose your hope. One day it will change, I have to believe that.
I want to study English. I want to learn something here, and live here. If they’d have let me study in the past 8 years I could have done anything. I could contribute to my new community, to society. I owe this country, I have to do my best for them. I do have some good memories from this country too. I came here, I had problems, I’d been threatened – here, people will help me. I believe that if I call the police, they would help me. Humanity is still alive. I come to Scottish Refugee Council and they listen to me, they talk to me nicely, they help. My solicitor is good, giving me hope. These are good memories for me from my time here. One day I hope to get papers and secure my future.