Asylum seeker: ‘I was put in a cell one minute after claiming asylum’
I approached the Immigration officer at Heathrow and said ‘Sir I need your help’ he said I can’t help you, all I can do is give you a glass of water.’ I was stunned and said ‘But I’ve got a problem. I need you to help me.’ He said that I had to tell him that I wanted to claim asylum. After a one minute conversation I was put into a cell in the airport for nearly two days. It was after 24 hours that they interviewed me but it was only a few basic questions. I didn’t have a lawyer; they didn’t want to see any evidence. I came to the UK for protection but I was taken to a prison-like place called Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, locked up like a criminal. I didn’t know what was going on or what was going to happen.
I was given a solicitor after 3 or 4 days of being locked up. I only had half an hour with them. They said, ‘We don’t have time to waste with you. We just want a short answer.’ But this case is my future. Why would I hurry this? The next day I had a full asylum interview which lasted for hours and my asylum claim was refused after only one day. I think they had already decided not believe.
When you are applying for asylum, you don’t know the Fast Track system, they should tell you how it works, they don’t offer you solicitor immediately, they don’t ask you about how much time you need to get all your evidence, they don’t ask you if you have been tortured. They just lock you up. Why are you putting me in prison and on trial as though I have done something wrong with no way of getting justice?
My solicitors finished with me after my first appeal was refused three days later . The Home Office tried to say I hadn’t been shot, but the Judge believed me when he accepted photos I managed to get from back home. But he said that I should relocate in Pakistan, but no one can tell me where I should go to be safe. If they could, I would go because I want to be there. But I want to not be afraid for my life.
Since then I have been fighting by myself, doing everything I can from this cell. I’ve just got another solicitor, who has said that I could have a fresh claim or I could fight in the High Court so now I have some hope restored. I don’t know how else I can prove to them that I am being persecuted for my religion: that I have been shot, my brothers have been kidnapped, run down, and my Church has been bombed. But this doesn’t seem to be enough for them. It would be fairer if I could have more time to gather evidence, more time with my solicitors, if I wasn’t locked up while my case is being decided by the High Court, and it wasn’t a system designed to refuse you.
They just use Fast Track as the system to say no to people without even listening to us – to say that it’s effective is a cruel joke. It’s only effective for a government who wants to deport people without caring why they have come here, what danger they are running from or who may be waiting for them back home with a gun.