“It’s a Long, Long Journey” – One Man’s Experience of the UK Asylum System


Steve (not his real name) is an asylum seeker who lives in London. He recently spoke about his experience to the Diocese of Westminster Network of those Welcoming Migrants and Refugees. The video of this event can be found on our YouTube channel. With thanks to the Jesuit Refugee Service for supporting Steve and inviting him to speak, anonymously. This is what he told us:

I’ve been in this asylum system for about 11 years, and all I can say is that being an asylum seeker is stressful, and it gives a lot of people uncertainty. 

Because the whole system is very slow. You have to wait many years to hear from the Home Office, and also, applying for asylum, the Home Office don’t seem to believe you, your story. 

Sometimes you get refusals and also to access basic healthcare is very hard.

It’s very very hard to be in that situation in this country as an asylum seeker. You depend on charities for handouts and year after year the same thing keeps happening. And you don’t know when this will come to an end and when you will be free to move on with your life. 

And I just want to say something about the Nationality and Borders Bill. Because the system is already bad and it’s going to become worse. Because criminalising people who are coming here to seek asylum is really, really bad, because you don’t know – when you are fleeing your country because of war or persecution – you don’t have time to prepare. And to be punished on the basis of how you arrived in this country, without listening to you, that’s unfair, that’s unjust. And also limiting asylum appeals, that’s denying justice, because circumstances change. You might have a fresh claim, fresh evidence to submit, and if they limit asylum appeals that won’t be justice.

And the other thing is, accessing the NHS is very, very hard. I remember I had an appointment with the hospital and I had to cancel that appointment because of a letter I received saying, ‘In line with government regulation we may need to ask you questions to establish whether or not you are entitled to receive free NHS care’,  and that made me scared that maybe they might send me a bill which would follow me everywhere I go, and I had to cancel it. And yet I needed some urgent attention.

It was very very hard.

You have to live with friends, you have sleep on their sofas..You have to go from one place to another moving around with your luggage

The asylum system takes a long time, it takes a long time for them to make the decisions and there is an element of disbelief. They don’t believe you. they think that maybe you are just lying, that everything you tell them is just like a lie. 

So that’s what I wanted to share today regarding my experience.

It’s a long journey

It’s a long journey

It’s a long, long journey, full of uncertainty and a lot of stuff.

So thank you very much for listening, and thank you Caritas for allowing me to share my story.

The Nationality and Borders Bill is going through parliament at the moment. Caritas Westminster, along with many other Catholic Charities, opposes this Bill because it would create a more unjust asylum system including punitive measures for those who have already suffered the most, travelling dangerous routes to escape persecution or violence. Read more about the Bill and write to your MP.

You can hear Steve speak here 

As well as Steve, we heard from three other refugees, Osama, Rishan, and Musaab:



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