Michael* spent almost ten months in northern France in 2015-16 before crossing to the UK where he successfully applied for asylum. Michael shares his story with us to highlight how the current system isn’t working, and why we need #ASaferWay.
When you are stuck at the UK border your future is one big blank. You feel full of hope but also full of problems. It is a terrible place. Even a rat has more value than you. It can cross the border freely, while you cannot. The conditions there are inhumane. Police wake you up by spraying tear gas in your face. You live in the cold, wet mud. The sky is your ceiling. Unable to wash your body or clothes, to eat, to work, hope is your only weapon.
I was at the UK border in northern France for almost ten months, from 2015 to 2016. I lived in the infamous ‘Jungle’ camp. The situation while I was there was quite different from how it is now. We were like a little village. We were living in terrible conditions, but at least we were together. We could support each other, so we felt stronger.
But this strength doesn’t exist now because there is no specific place for people to live. They don’t know where they are allowed to live, and they don’t know if they can find food. In the Jungle, we had some facilities, but even then we didn’t feel safe or secure.
Yet people now have none of these facilities, and nowhere to live. They must feel incredibly insecure. These people have already endured too much hardship. The system isn’t working. If the UK believes in human rights, then we must make asylum available at the border.
Some of the most vulnerable people in the world are trying to cross to the UK. Why? Many of them are from countries that were colonised by the British, such as Sudan, so they had English as their second language in school. They speak English and have friends and family in the UK. Of course, they will do anything to get here.
“If people could apply at the border, then nobody would risk their lives to get here irregularly.”
It would also save time – people might not wait for years if they could just find out if they will be accepted. It would reduce trafficking. The UK considers smugglers as criminals, but they don’t give asylum seekers a safe way to claim asylum. Instead, the government spends a huge amount securing the border. And then asylum seekers risk their lives and give money to smugglers and traffickers to get them into the country. They die in refrigerated lorries, on overcrowded rubber dinghies or under trains.
Secondly, we should make the accelerated transfer possible for the most vulnerable people. Women, lone children, LGBTQI people. They all face terrible risks making their journey to the UK. If we identified them and helped them transfer speedily to the UK to make their asylum claim, we could prevent so much suffering.
These changes sound simple, but they would change a lot of lives. It would be more effective, more efficient, and more just. Nobody needs to lose their life, their rights or their dignity trying to claim asylum.
There is #ASaferWay.
*The author’s name has been changed to protect their identity.