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Faith's story: 'I do not feel I have been treated like a human'

12 June 2015

Faith is asking for sanctuary in the UK, having fled from repeated rapes in her country which are linked to her sexuality


I FIRST met my "cousin", as he was introduced to me, in 2009. He was in his 50s, I was 24. Actually, I knew of him before; so I couldn't understand why my parents were introducing us like that. Afterwards, they told me that we were going to get married. I told my mum that I didn't want to marry him, and I tried to refuse.

I don't like him: he's abusive. I've seen him several times, either at my parents' house or, sometimes, with my friends, when he would forceably take me away. He has raped me several times - maybe more than three times. He raped me in 2011, and I have a baby from that. I told my mum everything, but she kept saying that it was my fault, and that if I had married him it wouldn't happen.

I think they tried to get me to marry because they suspect that I am a lesbian.

I started dating girls in 1998, when I was at high school, but I kept it secret from my family. I don't know of anyone who has been arrested for that in my country, but it's very dangerous. If you are lesbian, the belief is that it is because you have not met the right man yet. If they know your sexuality, any man can rape you [it is known as "corrective" rape]. And if you go to the police, they will not take you seriously.

I went to them about my cousin's raping me. He was arrested the first time, and held for two days and nights, and then he was just let out. Domestic violence is common, and sometimes, if you say he is a cousin, they just say it is a family matter. The men can pay their way out as well, so it's hard to fight them.

I tried to run away instead. I went to Botswana, but he rang me there; so I went to friend in South Africa, but he came with one of my uncles and took me back. After that, some friends helped me to get the money to pay to come to the UK. And as soon as I arrived, I claimed asylum.

At the airport, the people from the Home Office were saying to me: "What you're telling us is not the truth; we're going to deport you to your country in ten days." I was detained immediately, and held for three days, then put in a detention centre. It felt like I had done something very wrong; like I had done a crime.

When I saw the door here, it felt like prison. It felt so bad I could barely talk. It was a long journey here from the airport, so I was tired; and when I had my health-care interview, I didn't tell them about the rapes. I think I was in shock. But now they are holding that against me in terms of my claim.

Sometimes you are hungry, and want to eat something in the night, or have a cup of tea, but everything is locked; we don't even have access to a microwave. But I don't go for breakfast any more because, even with medication, I can't sleep at night, and in the morning I'm very tired.

I try to keep positive. I help in the kitchen and laundry room to clean, wash dishes, cut the salad, that kind of thing. I get paid £1 per hour. Sometimes I plait ladies' hair, too. It gives me something, and I can earn a bit of money to phone my son.

I was given a plane ticket in April to send me back home, but then I submitted a fresh claim. The report from Medical Justice's assessment, however - of evidence of the rapes, and of scarring from where I was beaten by him - wasn't ready to lodge with that. So they issued me with another ticket for 15 May.

I put in another fresh claim, including the Medical Justice report, but on 15 May they tried to deport me. They took me on a flight to Italy, then on another flight to Germany. At the airport, German immigration refused to let me to on the next flight to my home country, because the escorts didn't have a letter from the authorities to say that they would accept me.

We spent a night stuck in the airport. It was humiliating; everyone was staring at me. The escorts had wanted to put me in detention, but the German immigration authorities refused on the basis that they had no grounds to detain me. The next day, I was put on a flight back to the UK.

The airport lost my luggage, and I was detained for a few days, then sent back to the detention centre. Those few days made me feel disorientated, scared, humiliated. I do not feel like I have been treated like a human being.

When I left my country, I left my son with my mum. Because I couldn't tell her what I was doing, I didn't even get to say goodbye. When my mum found out that I am not coming back, she said she wouldn't take care of him any longer, so he's with an aunt on my father's side, now. She is the only family who understands. But she has five kids of her own, and isn't married or working. She has livestock, and that's how she lives.

The other month, a friend of mine passed away. He was stabbed. He had been helping my aunt a bit financially, and knows about my sexuality. My aunt thinks my cousin had something to do with his death because, before he died, he received text messages from him.

Now, most people from where I am from, know that I have claimed asylum here; so, if I am not successful, I will be in even more danger. The Home Office approached my country to ask if I could have protection, but the police in my country don't take kindly to people who go out of the country and claim asylum. Now I am scared of them, too.


Faith's fresh claim, including the Medical Justice report, has now been accepted by the Home Office. She is still in detention, waiting for a decision on her case.

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