How To Survive The UK’s Asylum System

Uthman*, who fled persecution in Sudan, explains how his daily chores and routine have become crucial in allowing him to have some form of normality in his life as he waits for a decision on his asylum claim

Every morning I get up and I have my breakfast. I clean my room, the bathroom and the kitchen in my small flat in Manchester that I share with two other people. Sometimes I go for a morning run, then I go back home, take a shower and begin to cook. I always cook my lunch from scratch, to make the most of the small sum of money I have to live on and occupy long days while I’m prevented from working.

This has become my daily routine since I arrived in the UK nine months ago seeking asylum. These small chores have become crucial in helping me pass the time as I wait for a decision on my future. They allow me to have some form of normality in my life. They also help me take my mind off things.

They have become my survival mechanism as I wait to learn my fate.

I am 24-years-old. I have many ambitions, I have energy, I want to study, I want to work, I want to rely on myself and I want to reunite with my family. But all my ambitions and dreams are frozen. I have nothing to offer society at this point, but I know that if I can begin to integrate, I would be able to give back.

Instead, I spend a lot of time at home on my own. Sometimes, after I finish my daily chores, I go back to bed, like an old man. The difference is an old man has lived his long life – I am still waiting to live mine.

I am currently surviving on £5.39 a day. This money is for my food and my bus fare. I have become very good in maths since I got here. I know how to budget even the smallest amount of money. Every penny is calculated. I’ve learnt how to cook. I look up recipes online and calculate the costs of ingredients at the beginning of the week to make sure the money lasts.

It took weeks to save for a bike I recently bought for £20. It’s a small bike and it doesn’t work perfectly, but it is a good solution to bringing down the costs of transportation.

Adapting to change to is part of my survival mechanism. Four years ago I left my home country of Sudan, fleeing persecution to seek safety. Throughout my journey and since leaving my mother and my wife, I have learnt to adapt to change in order to survive. I have crossed many borders and lived through unimaginable hardship. I learnt different languages and accents along the way, I had to seek ways to shelter myself from the cold and feed myself when I was penniless. I spent years in Libya where I was shot at, beaten and imprisoned I witnessed fights, people attacking each other and women being raped. I feared for my life the whole time.

When I first arrived in the UK, I cried tears of joy. I was met by police who treated me with respect. I felt safe, I was given a home, a bed and I finally felt warm again at night. I thought to myself that these are all good signs, I thought things will be resolved and I’ll be able to finally move forward with my life.

I had my asylum interview shortly after I arrived. It was my only chance to tell them everything. A week later, I got a letter from the Home Office saying that they will look into my case. I took the letter and put it in a drawer and that was that. I haven’t heard back from anyone since.

When people ask me what the hardest thing about my life is now that I found safety, I say to them it’s the waiting. Waiting for the unknown, waiting and not knowing when the waiting will end. Every day I wait for a letter from the Home Office informing me of their decision on my asylum claim. But I get nothing.

There are people who have been waiting longer than me. Everyone has different circumstances and is experiencing things differently. But for me, these nine months have been extremely long – they have been taken away from me and I worry that more time will pass and I am wasting my life away. My life depends on this decision.

My story is one of many told in Refugee Action’s report,Waiting in the Dark. I’m supporting the charity’s Stand Up For Asylum campaign because I hope that speaking out and sharing the experiences of people seeking asylum will make the Government improve the system. That people will not have to wait so long in future and will receive fair decisions faster.

I don’t understand why there is such a long delay in my decision. I fled my country years ago and I feel like I am still fleeing. I feel like I am still living my past.

The waiting makes life become meaningless. It is exhausting mentally and physically. I get bad headaches, but when I cry I feel better. Sometimes, when I remember what I have been through and what I am going through now, I contemplate suicide.

But then I remember that despite everything I have been through; I managed to survive. I am still resilient and strong – I know I can achieve more if I am given a chance.

Uthman* is a pseudonym to protect his identity while he waits for a decision on his future. He is sharing his story as part of Refugee Action’s Stand Up For Asylum campaign. For more information, click here