This article was written by self proclaimed 'full-time asylum-seeker' Hannibal Albendago who hails from Libya.
Hannibal is currently working on his fresh asylum claim and has been homeless in Manchester since his last refusal. Here he talks about his experiences in the British asylum system and living as an asylum-seeker in Manchester...
This is a true story of my life as an asylum seeker. I really appreciate the valuable time you have taken to read my account.
An asylum-seeker is someone whose claim for refugee status is still being decided.
The procedure can take anything from several months to a few years to be resolved, including the possibility of appealing against a refusal. Personally, it has been over 8 years and I still don’t know when I will finally be able to live as a normal person.
Whilst lengthy asylum procedures prolong uncertainty for asylum-seekers and costs for the state, rushed decisions could put people at risk and in need. The challenge of a good system of asylum is to balance speed with quality.
A brief note about the Home office: it is intimidating and scary. You can't know what they're thinking, but because of my past experiences with them, I can tell already what they’ll say: “no”, I already know they're going to say “you're lying”.
You just never know with them. It's just so uncertain, you don't know whether they’ll grant or refuse your application. Inside, when you go to sign on, you don't know if they're going to call you in for an interview or if they're going to give you a refusal straight there and then. They can do anything they feel like doing.
Whatever you say, however honest, pleading and desperate you are, they'll listen and tell you the same thing: “I don't believe you”, “I can't help you”, “Contact your caseworker”, “Contact your lawyer”. They make everything so complicated, everything is so hard.
You don't know what's going to happen to you. Eventually you find out that there's something you can do to help yourself and to make life better. So I say, ok, let me go and seek that. Now, I know I was brave but when I went I was very naïve. It’s down to the asylum seeker to prove himself.. I came from
persecution, but some people come from war. They just run. They have nothing.
I thought that claiming asylum was all I needed to do, but you have to do so much more. The burden of proof is so big. I hate the word “evidence”, it’s horrible and frustrating. They push people so far that they start forgetting things or having to lie about evidence because all they're thinking is the impossibility of returning to where they’ve come from.
I have been in the UK for a long time now, so how do they expect me to get new evidence for a fresh claim? It’s a difficult and complicated procedure.
The burden on proof should lie with the Home Office, not the person who's running away from persecution or war. Not on the person who's suffering, the person who's scared of being imprisoned, who's facing discrimination.
It shouldn't be that way. Vulnerable people should not have to prove themselves in this way, rather the burden should lie on the other side.
The “asylum seeker” label, makes people treat you as if you're beneath them. Most of the English people I've come in contact with are nice, but some are nasty.
This game is all about surviving, since I was refused in 2012 my life has been turned upside down. I get support from the red cross, but this isn’t much for a person to live on; a Food parcel and £5 per week.
Living on £5 a week, the boredom of waiting for trial, this dehumanising system and canned food, it reminds me of WW1 and WW2. I really hope we don’t have an apocalypse - I hate canned food so much! Now the Red Cross has decided to cut my support because I have been with them for over a year, it’s so ridiculous it makes me laugh! But now I’m living off £10 a week which I get it from the Boaz Trust, and thanks to them I am hosted by a very kind British couple.
I’m not competing with anyone, I have no desire to play the superiority game. I am simply trying to be a better person than I was yesterday and the day before yesterday and before that and before etc...
No permission to work and dependent on charities for food and clothes.
I'm trying to keep myself busy. I try to get involved in different organisations. It helps me to reduce the stress in my life. I may be an asylum seeker and homeless, but I love to be healthy and fit. I enjoy physical activities, exploring and living adventurously! You don't need to visit the Himalayas, the Andes, Inca ruins, Egyptian pyramids or Mount Everest to have adventures and
explore - It's all around you right where you are.
I may be homeless but never hopeless. Nor desperate. Because that’s what the UKBA (UK Border Agency) wanted me to be. Humans sometimes make things so complicated for each other; since when do you need documents to prove that you human? They never thought “This person came to our land in need of help, lets help the poor guy".
Where are the human rights? Because I thought UK was all about human rights and equality. Even though I am homeless and broke, I am still keeping up with what I love to do and what I enjoy, not even Jesus could stop me now! I have been down so many times, but I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and come through the other side.
My final words
As a young man in Libya, you don’t have any dreams. You can’t.
I want to thank all my friends and people who been involved and supported me during my life in UK so far.
Thank you for the safety, respect and values you share with refugees. Thank you for sharing with us your shelter, food, time, thoughts and smiles.