Matthew came to the UK
to be safe from political persecution in Zimbabwe. Without the
right to work, he ended up in prison, and then
I LEFT Zimbabwe because of
political issues. My parents were into politics, and that caused a
problem for them. They are no longer alive. When I was 14, they
took me to a farm where I was given a false passport, and then put
on a plane.
I arrived at Birmingham
airport, with maybe £100. Some say I should have claimed asylum
then, but I didn't know about asylum. I just got on a train, and
stayed on it until it stopped, which just happened to be in
I remember buying fish and
chips for the first time there. After that, I sat at the train
station for a few hours, and an old woman came and asked me if I
was all right. I told her where I came from, and that I didn't know
where I was. She drove me to her house, introduced me to her
husband and kids, and they looked after me.
After a while, I moved to
Leeds. I got to meet some fellow Zimbabweans there. I thought they
were helping me, not knowing that they wanted to use me. Before I
knew it, I was homeless. I had no money, nothing.
I started getting into trouble,
stealing food and sleeping on the streets. After that I met Nicola.
She introduced me to her parents, who were very kind to me, and we
became a family.
Her parents showed me that I
could apply for asylum, which I did in 2002. I was refused in 2003,
and given a Section 4 house near by for about two years, because it
is impossible to get a travel document from the Zimbabwean
authorities to deport me.
Later, I was moved between
houses in different areas, and was sometimes homeless. But I saw
Nicola frequently, and in 2007 we had a daughter.
I AM not allowed to work in the
UK, and I got into trouble again, trying to look for money to help
support my daughter. I was given a six-month prison sentence, and
was meant to serve three. But on the day of my release, on 25
November 2010 - my partner and daughter were waiting for me outside
- they told me that I was being detained under the immigration act
as a foreign national prisoner.
I stayed for a year and a half
in the same prison. After that, they took me to Morton Hall
[Immigration Removal Centre] for about a year. Then they moved me
to Colnbrook [IRC], where I spent another two years, or
In that time I had 16 bail
hearings. Bail is a waste of time. The charges - immigration and
probably the solicitor are all in it together. They talk about it
before we even go to the building, they know who's going in, who's
not getting bail; by the time you get there, you're not getting
On 12 March this year, they
came to me, because of my health, and said: "We've detained you for
too long; we can't deport you, we've got you a Section 4
I told them I wanted to live
with my daughter. They said: "We need you to sign this, because you
need to come out of the detention centre today, not tomorrow." But
I wouldn't agree to go to the Section 4 house unless I could see my
daughter; so they gave me a travel warrant to go to Yorkshire on
the day of my release, to see her. After that they took me to my
Section 4 house in Plymouth.
My daughter has known me from
inside a visiting room, and for what purpose? Four and a half
years, then just to release me and separate us again? The
Government is intentionally cutting family ties, because support
for those families, or individuals, on Section 4 or Section 95,
doesn't cover travel.
ONCE you have spent a lot of
time on your own, locked in a room, you come to a place where you
think life is not worth living. My daughter is my only reason for
living - without her, there's no me. Me, I'm done. I'm done with
England, I'm done with life, I'm done with everything. I don't need
all this. The only reason to live is her, and that's what got me
through detention, because in my head I was: "I can't let her down,
I can't let her down, I can't let her down."
But now I'm living in Plymouth
in a Section 4 house where they are selling drugs. Every Tom, Dick,
and Harry lives there; I don't even know who lives there, some come
and do prostitution even. In a Home Office house! They give me £35
of supermarket vouchers, not even money, and they're going to use
that - they've always used it - to say that I'm not a good dad; I
haven't been there for my daughter. They're going to say we're not
a family; that there are no family ties.
The Government justification
for detention is that you will reoffend or abscond; so part of your
conditions for bail, or release, is that you sign in every week at
the police station. You must sleep and reside at that address every
night; so if you stay somewhere overnight, that's a breach of your
conditions, and that's a reason to re-detain you.
I've got hatred inside of me. I
don't know what's happened to my life. I'm supposed to be free, but
I'm not free, because I'm not with my daughter; that's where my
happiness is. I'm free, but I'm locked up: I'm in Plymouth, I'm in
a room, I'm being pumped with different kinds of medication, I
don't know if I'm coming or going.
I SOMETIMES think, should I
just go to Yorkshire and sleep on the streets? At least, then,
every morning, I could take my daughter to school. But then they
would take me back to detention, and I can never go back to
nightmares. . . They will never go away. Detention will never go
away. The noise in Colnbrook: you've got 200 to 300 people in a
small space, and they're all talking. Even when it's quiet, I can
hear the talking, the keys, the shouting, people crying.
The only way I feel better is
when I'm with my daughter. I just want to go where she is, because
she loves me and I love her; my baby mother [Nicola] loves me, even
though I've been away for so long, and I've got someone like
Theresa May saying I've got no family ties.
I know people who have been in
Colnbrook for six years, and are still in there today. But if
you're in detention for one day, it will change you. Right now, I'm
on medications and I don't even know what they are. In Colnbrook,
before the NHS took over, they were giving me the wrong medication.
The NHS psychiatrist had to cancel everything, and I was told I
shouldn't have been taking that medicine, and for so long. Now, I
don't even know myself. You never come out of detention the
Matthew has no appeals or
applications pending. He has been refused asylum, but cannot be
returned as the Home Office cannot obtain a travel document to send
him back to Zimbabwe.