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Mary's story: 'Everybody is suffering here'

12 June 2015

Mary applied for asylum after death threats for marrying outside the Muslim faith, but found herself being detained with her husband


I HAVE lived in the UK for six and a half years. I came here from my country in June 2009 to do a diploma, followed by an MBA, with hopes of working in social-care administration, and then, later, to train as a nurse. I have been working in a nursing home while I study.

Just before I left my country, I got married. My husband is a journalist. (I found his diary in a rickshaw, and returned it to him. After that we became friends.) We married in secret because he is a Hindu and I come from a Muslim family.

Between 2009 and 2013, we got to see each other only once a year. My father is the secretary of the mosque where my family live, and we lived as man and wife in total secrecy and fear. I got pregnant twice, and for this reason I had to abort our two children.

In 2013, my husband joined me in the UK on a spousal visa. There is a big immigrant community from my country where I live, so when he arrived I stopped inviting people round. But, somehow, the news got back to my family.

I started getting text messages from my family. My brother-in-law, the husband of my sister, started texting, saying that they will kill me and my husband if we come back. One month later, my father disowned me. My relatives started causing trouble for my husband's family, too, so we moved them to a different area.


MY STUDENT visa was set to run out at the end of 2014. I was going to apply for another, but instead I applied for asylum. We went for a screening interview in Croydon. They said we were overstayers: although I applied before my visa ran out, because of the Christmas holidays they didn't receive my file until five days after my student visa ran out. They wouldn't let us leave. At 6.30 p.m., an officer told us we were being detained.

I asked a friend to keep certain documents for us, but we have lost everything else: our house with all our furniture and things in; our £3000 deposit. We were told that we would be detained for 15 days while they made a decision; but we have been in detention now for months. They keep lying to us.

I have given them all the text messages, and the document with my father's denouncement. We never expected this, and cannot get over it. When will we be released? Two years? Three years? I go day by day, but most of the time things are not OK.

One Chinese lady cuts herself every day; every night she's going for stress-relief medication and sleeping pills. An officer might sit with her for a week, and then again she starts. Near by there is a lady who is Hindu married to a Muslim from another country, but the Home Office have tickets to send her back to her country and her husband back to where he is from. And they got married here, eight years ago!


RECENTLY, one of my neighbours died. I went into him and he was struggling to breathe; he held our hands and tried to say something, and then he collapsed. We had to wait for eight to ten minutes for health care to arrive, and 20 minutes for an ambulance. They spent two hours trying to resucitate him.

Since then, I've not been able to sleep, but I've been told that they cannot change our room. And I am worrying every day because my husband is very sick. He says, "Don't cry too much." My husband was sick before he came here, but they are saying that they cannot give him any medication. He is in bed these last few days, but health care won't visit you in your room; you have to go to them. And the doctor said, after my neighbour died, that it can happen to anyone here, just to collapse and die.

I am also not well. I have a cyst in my breast that needs surgery, and for the past month I have had severe pain, but health care have lost my file so they won't give me temporary admission. I had tests to see if it was benign before I was taken into detention, but I haven't been able to receive my results.

Day by day I am losing my mind, I'm losing my hope. I'm thinking a lot about the things we fear: if they send us back, where will we hide? All the time, these things are killing my mind. It is getting worse, the longer we are here.

We can work; we don't want money or a house, we just want to be safe because we fear for our lives in our country. We have filed for temporary admission, to be released with a promise we will not abscond. And we are waiting for a bail hearing.

But we are not suffering alone, everybody is suffering here.


This interview was undertaken while Mary was in detention. Since then, Mary and her husband have been released on bail, and are awaiting the outcome of their case while staying with a friend. Mary wonders what their detention achieved, other than to traumatise them.

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