After a year of waiting, our asylum application has been refused – I will appeal, but still can’t work

The heat or eat diariesImmigration and asylum


The Home Office does not believe I am who I say I am. Meanwhile, my pregnant wife and I have £80 a week to live on

  • This article is part of the heat or eat diaries: a series from the frontline of Britain’s cost of living emergency
An illustration by Eleanor Bannister shows a worried couple sitting at a table with paperwork, husband holding wife's hand
 Illustration: Eleanor Bannister/The Guardian

Fri 11 Nov 2022 12.00 GMT

Our asylum case was refused. My solicitor rang to tell us. My wife was standing beside me, I was trying to keep calm for her but, in my mind, I was totally shocked. The solicitor was telling me that he was sorry, and not to worry. He said, “don’t take it personally”, and explained that he hoped we would appeal and that we had a very good chance of winning. In my mind, though, I was feeling fear and panic rising inside me. My wife was about to cry. I remembered everything that happened in our home country, the death threats, the danger and getting out – and suddenly it felt so close again. I thought, “We’re going to suffer. We’re going to be killed.”

The Home Office refusal was many pages long. It believed my age and my nationality, but it decided that everything else I said in the asylum interview was a lie. That interview, which took place more than a year ago, was exhausting and long. When the officer asked me questions, he would say, “Please try to answer briefly.” I tried to answer briefly but now they have decided that I didn’t supply enough detail. They said that the documents I supplied were false and could have been prepared here. I felt as if I was being called a liar and a cheat. In my country, I was one of the good guys, I was trying to help people – and now I have to live with this false image of myself. I can’t believe it.

I’m trying to be calm, especially for my wife. I don’t want her to feel afraid or any more stressed in this pregnancy than she already is. The baby is growing, he is really big – bigger than normal – and he is taking all the resources, the energy, the vitamins, from my wife. The doctor has recommended that she eat more than usual and more often, maybe eating something every one or two hours. We have been trying to make that possible, even though our weekly budget – £40 each – remains the same and everything is more expensive. It’s probably not healthy but we’re replacing toast and jam with biscuits – the cheapest ones for 60p – as well as the cheapest fruit we can find. We have a small bag of tangerines for 90p: they used to be 60p. Shopping is like a juggling act. What can we let go so that we can afford what we really need?

We are appealing against the Home Office decision. Our solicitor is collecting all the proof so that we can answer everything point by point. He says he is confident that we can win, and I’m trying to be positive but I feel so different now. Before, I was hopeful. Now, all the time, I’m thinking, “What if?” If the Home Office doesn’t believe real documents, what if the appeal judge feels the same? Or even if the judge believes us and rules in our favour, what if the Home Office appeals their decision? I try to keep my mind quiet but there are so many questions, a thousand of them, that I can’t control.

And at the same time, we’re preparing to be parents. The baby is kicking more, we are trying to talk to him to create better development and his responses are getting stronger. We have a wooden cot donated by a friend – there are people here with huge hearts trying to help us. That cot is set up in our bedroom and I can’t describe how I feel when I look at it, sitting empty and waiting for our son. I’m anxious, I’m excited. In the middle of all this sadness and badness, here’s the light. It’s shining.

  • As told to Anna Moore. Paul is in his 30s and is an asylum seeker living in the north of England. Names have been changed
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