Opinion

I'm a refugee who fled hate and torture. UK's cruel Rwanda plan has thrown me back to square one

King is a young woman who fled persecution in her homeland in Asia and now lives in the UK. She is a client of Freedom from Torture

Rwanda: Rishi Sunak

In spite of numerous objections, including a Supreme Court ruling which declared the policy unlawful, Rishi Sunak is determined to make the government’s Rwanda plan workable. Image: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo

For the whole of 2023, I’ve lived with the terror of being sent to live again in a land that displays human rights abuses. The constant threat of being deported to Rwanda has brought shockwaves to my mind and body. I’ve felt like I’ve been thrown back to square one, and I’m yet again facing a very uncertain future. 

I had to flee persecution and torture. I’ve felt cast aside and abandoned as a human being. I’ve been in the UK for five years now, and my road to recovery has been rocky. 

I often feel like I’m being swept into a waterfall, with overwhelming feelings of drowning in emotions, lost in the waves of confusion. But people in this country have been so welcoming and understanding of what I’ve been through.

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Having experienced persecution and trauma for so long, I’ve struggled with my physical and mental health. I’m often silent and afraid to speak out, but I’ve found that through painting, art, poetry and writing I’ve been able to express myself and explain my plight. 

And the unconditional support, help and hope I’ve got from outstanding charities like Freedom from Torture, Crisis and Rainbow Migration have helped to alleviate my suffering.  

But I know that many refugees are also suffering. It’s a tragedy that people are waiting with so much uncertainty about their asylum applications, especially when over 70% of claims are approved in the end. And now, those who are finally granted protection are facing homelessness due to seven-day eviction notices – what should be a moment of celebration is turning into a horror show.

I know what it’s like to live on the streets with no roof over my head, and I was so sad to hear how thousands of refugees were facing spending Christmas without a home.   

The UK has always had a reputation for fairness, justice and for being a champion of human rights. But how the UK government has been acting recently has shocked and deeply troubled me – they are preying on the fears of ordinary people. 

They’ve started to become more like the country I fled. Politicians in power have demonised people like me, painting a picture of us being the problem. But this is simply not true. 

For the last year, the government has been fighting to make their Rwanda plan a reality. It’s gone through so many legal challenges and hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent. 

Only a few short weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled the deal with Rwanda unlawful. Their new bill is just another desperate and cruel move. 

So much money has already been wasted, and not a single plane has taken off. I don’t understand why this money can’t be used to get through the asylum backlog and to house refugees in safe and dignified housing.

Why is the UK government refusing to treat refugees like human beings? I feel like a puppet on a string being pulled in many ways, on a constant merry-go-round, not able to get off and never in control of my own life. The bottom line seems to be that we refugees are simply not wanted here. It’s like we’re just a problem to be passed on to someone else.   

They keep saying that the Rwanda plan will be a deterrent for people trying to reach the UK to claim sanctuary. But as someone who’s fled torture and persecution, I can tell you it won’t. When you’re fleeing for your life, you’re not thinking about government policies.   

Looking towards 2024 and the recent decision regarding the vote on the Rwanda Bill has really left me in a total state of anguish and confusion, not knowing now what this really means for me. It appears that the government has now put us in a position of “heads I win (government), tails you lose (refugees)”.  

From everything I’ve read, from all the news I’ve watched, it seems to me that this new bill will not comply with international law and will be condemned by the United Nations. 

I’m horrified to think of all the refugees who won’t be able to fight a removal notice – so many people don’t have access to the support needed to mount a legal challenge like this.  

As each day goes by, there seems to be another threat or promise made by the government to rid this country of refugees and survivors of torture. Where is the understanding, the empathy, the compassion? We just want a chance to recover, to rebuild our lives, and to live in peace.

All I am asking is to make a life in the UK, contribute to society by working hard and to show the country what I am capable of.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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