My name is Rafiq. I am an asylum-seeker from Bangladesh. I was persecuted in my home country because of my membership of the opposition party. If I go back there I will be dead. But the Home Office locked me in detention, in Brook House, and threatened to send me back to Bangladesh. I want to speak out about what I experienced there, and I want to talk about how we can fight for justice.
Detention is like hell
In Brook House detention centre we were locked in our rooms over 13 hours a day. I felt trapped. And the rooms were disgusting. In every room there is a toilet, but it didn’t have a lid or even a screen. This means that your room-mates can see you on the toilet. This is humiliating and degrading. I used to try to hold on and not use the toilet, but this was excruciating and very uncomfortable. I used to deliberately eat less food so that I wouldn’t need the toilet. Detention is like hell.
Also, I couldn’t pray in the room as it was not clean, you cannot properly follow Islam with a toilet in the room in which you pray and with this sort of uncleanliness and smell within the room. The room smells badly, but you can’t open the windows, they are locked. It made me feel so ill.
I wanted justice. I told my solicitors to write a letter to the Home Office, to say my detention and the conditions I was suffering in were illegal. The Home Office released me, but I continued with the case in court. I didn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.
The case was heard in the High Court earlier this year. I went every day. The judge said that the Home Office had failed to look at the rights of Muslim detainees properly, and had discriminated against them.
I was so grateful, it was an honour to be able to bring this respect for others. It was worth making this fight, everyone should come forward and fight.
My life now
Life isn’t easy now. I don’t sleep properly at night, I have sleeping pills but they don’t work. I have flashbacks every night, because of the Home Office and what I experienced in detention.
I find it hard to trust anyone, I can’t look at other people, I don’t feel normal, I don’t make friends, I don’t feel safe. I have mental health issues and PTSD, because of what I experienced in Bangladesh and in detention.
I haven’t seen my family for eight years now, can you imagine, and for a long time I wasn’t even able to communicate with them. I don’t get any asylum-support from the government. I don’t get a house, any shelter, any food.
Life is like, when you go to sleep, and you are dead, then you wake up and you are still alive, and you are grateful to be alive. I look out the window and I think “Oh, I see, it’s the UK, then life is going on.” It’s not a happy life, but if I was in Bangladesh, I would be dead. That’s what life is like.
I really want to sort this mess out. The Home Office is totally dark. That’s the main problem. You can’t touch them, you can’t see them, you can’t speak to them. If it is dark, you can’t do anything. We really need to know who is organising this.
But we need to fight for justice so that the rules and regulations are fair for everyone. When I was in detention, we had people from all over the world, from Asia, Africa, Europe, we were all the same, we were all suffering, we have the same emotions, the same feelings. The rules are not fair, they discriminate and are racist. The Home Office just changes the rules for their benefit. But justice should be fair for everyone.
I changed things by taking it to court. This country has a great and fair justice and I know people around the world follow British justice. I really love it. I went to court every day when my case was being heard. I really want to change things for everyone, not just myself; I love to share with everyone.
My advice to anyone fighting the Home Office darkness is this: stay strong. You need to be very strong. You should try to understand the rules and the regulations, fight for justice, go to the court. If we fight, one day it will be right and fair for everyone.
We have the ability to change these things, but nothing will change unless we fight. We have to come together, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. We have to come forward, and look for justice.
I am a Muslim, I am human, and I have to respect everyone, and all creatures.
If you respect other humans, it doesn’t matter where they come from, they will respect you. We are living for each other, but first we have to change ourselves. If we don’t change ourselves, then how can we change others?
So we are living for each other. We can make this world like heaven, or we can make it like hell. It’s all in our hands.
Image via Flickr - Terry Hughes