This blog post is written by a member of Refugees Call for Change. Refugees Call for Change is a group of people with experience of the asylum system advocating for change in the asylum system, supported by the Jesuit Refugee Service UK.

I am from West Africa. I sought asylum in the UK and have lived in the UK for 9 years and a few months now. I was homeless during the Covid lockdown and the local government had the power to help me, but they didn’t. Local organisations helped me get off the streets after three rejections from the Home Office. I have had a really tough journey – life has been very difficult in the UK. What I have to say here reflects my experience over the last 9 years.

We must fight against the hostile environment. The hostile environment is inhumane and dehumanises us. It means that certain individuals can’t do anything for themselves; they can’t even rent a house or work, and even studying is suspect under the hostile environment. We are human beings who expect dignity so those are the things we are looking for, simply to be treated like human beings.

The asylum system is really, really tough. When the Home Office are making a decision on an asylum claim, they don’t investigate it properly. They just say they that don’t believe you, and copy and paste their decisions between different cases without thinking. They should do more research on what is going on, and properly examine each individual case in front of them.

And looking at new developments, the government’s new plan to send people who claim asylum in the UK to Rwanda, where there are dubious human rights protections, is inhumane and illegal. According to the United Nations Refugee Convention, no refugee should be sent out of the country without proper investigation, but the government are breaching this.

The government falsely divides refugees into “good” and “bad”. For example, there is more consideration from the government for refugees from Ukraine than for refugees from Afghanistan. This division is again dehumanising. In reality, we don’t have any “bad immigrants” and as far as I’m concerned there are no illegal human beings in the world. The government should put humanity first, and nationality later. When you put humanity first, all other things will follow.

It is important to say these things. It is important to speak out and call for change when we see wrong. There may be a time when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to make our voices heard.

This need to make our voices heard is why Refugees Call for Change exists: we are a group of people with experience of the UK asylum system who come together and support each other to share our experiences and views, where we want to, and to speak out. There are so many ways we can do this. For example, by writing and speaking publicly,  or on social media;  by writing to MPs and members of government to call for change; and by producing and participating in research that helps to explain the need for change to a wider audience. In all of these ways, and more, our voices can be heard.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Refugee Law Initiative. We welcome comments and contributions to this blog – please comment below and see here for contribution guidelines.