Amos was born in an East African country. As a teenager he was sold by his impoverished family to a militia group in an adjoining country as a child soldier. After some time he managed to escape and began the long journey to what he hoped to be the sanctuary that the U.K. represented to him. His aspiration was to be a productive member of our society.
When Amos arrived in this country, he immediately applied for asylum. He did not however have any papers and his story was disbelieved and his application rejected. Amos has been in this country for 16 years now and his experiences reflect the increasingly hostile environment for asylum seekers and refugees and the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the Home Office. Thus over the last decade and a half Amos was on appeal given temporary leave to remain and was able to get a job and a bed sit. However on one of his mandatory fortnightly visits to the Home Office in Croydon, he was told that the ‘leave to remain’ was a mistake and that he could no longer work. He had to give up his job and lost his home. He was later detained and the Home Office attempted to deport him to the country they believed Amos came from originally. This country denied all knowledge of him and put him back on a plane to the U.K. After a further period of detention, Amos was released but without any right to work or claim benefits. Although Amos is effectively a stateless person, he is unable to prove it and is no longer able to get legal aid to make further appeals.
Up until approximately a year ago, Amos relied upon the kindness of strangers to provide a roof over his head – either in spare rooms or on a sofa. However the years of being in limbo, not allowed to work and in constant fear of being detained and/or deported again have taken their toll and he now unsurprisingly has some mild mental health difficulties making him a tricky house guest. Therefore he has lived for the approximately last 9 months in a tent in different parks around the town. Our organisation and a wonderful friend he has give him some financial support for food and basic essentials, but his life is grindingly tough and precarious. Amos is clinging on to the current Home Office rule that migrants who have been here over 20 years may be granted asylum but that is discretionary and anyway the rules get stricter every year.
Amos’s story is fictional, but barring the details it is an all too common a story. The Home Office has a stated policy of creating a hostile climate for unwanted migrants. The brutal logic behind this thinking is that by making life here as miserable as possible for people they consider unneeded in this country – asylum seekers, the poor, the dispossessed and the desperate – people will be deterred from coming here and, once here, will choose to leave. Leaving aside the brutal inhumanity of such a policy, it does not work. Most people in the world do not live in safe, well-regulated states. Migration is as old as humanity itself and is as natural to us as breathing. We move when we cannot flourish where we find ourselves. The normal way of doing that is to do it “irregularly”. That is, without papers and permissions. Once here you do not magically come from a place with a neat bureaucracy where your birth, marriage and death is recorded and stored on a computer system readily accessible by duly authorised officials. Even if you wanted to quit and to make the return journey, your lack of papers will stand in your way.
To put some numbers on that, NACCOM and others estimate that every year 6000 people come to the end of the asylum process but do not leave the UK. That means that every year another 6000 people find themselves in and Amos’s position. We know of at least three people in Brighton who have been here for over 15 years and have no status. There are at least a dozen people in Brighton who are homeless for having crossed the border. Some of them are sleeping rough.
We have to be able to find homes for people who have nowhere else to go. If you have not already, please, please subscribe to thousand 4 £1000 and help Amos and people like him to build some of the life they dreamed of when they gambled everything on coming here.