Chichester asylum seeker left waiting years for Home Office decision is ‘desperate to get on with his life’

An asylum seeker living in Chichester, who has been waiting more than two-and-a-half years for his claim to be processed, said the delay was making him ‘lose sight of his dreams’.

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 10:08 am
Stock image: Man waiting

Daoud*, who fears he would be killed if he was sent back to Cameroon, where he is from, said waiting for a decision on whether he can remain in the UK was having a severe impact on his wellbeing.

The 32-year-old said: “It has made me lose trust in the system.

“It is affecting me psychologically and is gradually making me to lose sight of my dreams.”

Daoud left Cameroon eight-and-a-half years ago out of fear that his bisexuality would be discovered and put him in danger.

After he was severely beaten up, his mother gave him her savings so that he could study in England – but when he arrived, he found the college where he had paid to get a business degree did not exist.

Despite his protests, the Home Office said he was therefore not considered to be a student.

He applied for asylum but his claim was rejected, in large part due to difficulties in sourcing documents from Cameroon to provide as evidence.

Daoud said he spent several months detained in prison-like conditions, but was not repatriated due to turmoil in Cameroon and was later released.

After two years sleeping on friends’ floors in Portsmouth, he was put in contact with Sanctuary in Chichester, which helped him submit a fresh asylum claim in July 2018.

Since then, the charity has provided him with accommodation and other support – as he is not permitted to work and is not receiving any financial support from the government.

Daoud said: “If not for the people in Chichester, particularly Sanctuary in Chichester, I could not have imagined how terrible my life would have been. Their support has been nothing short of outstanding.”

But the extent of the delay is taking its toll.

“I feel like the system is unreliable and incapable of keeping to their time frame for sorting out asylum claims,” he said. “I am not getting any younger.”

Just before Christmas, Daoud was finally informed that he had been allocated a case officer.

But Roger Pask, the founder and former chairman of Sanctuary in Chichester who has been supporting Daoud with his claim, said they had now been told that the Home Office might have to consider ‘evidence that would prove his sexual orientation’.

Mr Pask said this was ‘discriminatory’ and said: “It seems to be a massive intrusion into his right to a private life.”

There had been ‘inordinate delays’ in Daoud’s case, he said, adding: “He has done all the right things, he came here legally, he applied legally.

“The Home Office drags its feet with almost every single process, making life for people like Daoud really difficult.”

Describing him as ‘an intelligent, energetic, able young man’, he said: “He wants to get on and make his contribution. He thinks we are a great country. He is just desperate to get on with his life.”

Mr Pask said Daoud’s situation was not uncommon.

The charity is currently supporting around five other asylum seekers with their cases, all of which have dragged on for two years or more. “Their lives are wasting away,” he said.

The Home Office said applications for asylum based on issues of sexuality were principally determined on the consideration of whether the claimant has a well-founded fear or persecution in their home country based on a recognised Refugee Convention reason, namely membership of a particular social group.

A spokesman said: “The UK has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation.

“Every asylum claim is considered carefully, sensitively and on its individual merits by caseworkers who receive extensive training.

“We are committed to ensuring asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delay so those in need of protection are granted it as soon as possible so we can start to integrate and rebuild their lives.

“However, some cases can be more complex and take a longer period of time to process and decide.”

Sanctuary in Chichester was founded by Mr Pask in 2016 in response to the refugee crisis.

The charity offers a range of support activities for asylum seekers and refugees – including befriending, English language lessons and a football club – United Nations – for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Mr Pask said: “I’m a retired secondary headteacher, and I always thought of what me and my colleagues did as helping to build the future. That’s what these folk need, they need some help to build their future.”

Around 400 local people have been involved with the charity as volunteers over the years and he said they had hugely benefitted from developing their skills in different ways.

“I’ve always thought of it as not such much as a do-good organisation but as a community learning association,” he said. “I think we become a better society when we use our latent skills to help eachother.”

Find out more about the charity by visiting www.sanctuaryinchichester.org

*name has been changed to protect his identity