Illustration by Clara Nicoll

Displaced life: A letter from the home office has turned my world upside down

My asylum appeal has been rejected and I am worried about the future
March 1, 2023

January and February lived up to their reputations as cold and depressing months. I returned to Doncaster from Leeds after attending a dear friend’s funeral, the emotional turmoil of which triggered an epileptic episode that left me physically spent. I was longing for some much-needed rest. But when I turned the key and unlocked the front door to my flat, I saw, among the post, an envelope in the Home Office’s trademark beige paper with my name on it. I knew from previous experience that the day was about to get considerably worse. 

As soon as I got into my room I decided to rip off the Band-aid and reveal my fate. “On the 22nd February 2022 you made further submissions based on asylum/human rights grounds. I am writing to tell you that your further submissions have been rejected,” it said. The text was in bold. I paused, in silence, taking it in. I’ve endured refusals from the Home Office so many times that I’ve become numb. I no longer react with panic or a meltdown. When I’ve panicked in the past I’ve ended up having to spend four days in hospital for an epileptic seizure— I wanted to avoid that this time.

Not knowing when a decision on my asylum appeal will come is nerve-wracking. But I’ve learnt that when it does arrive the rug is pulled from under you, whether you decide to open the envelope or not. “Granted” or “rejected”: these two words make or break a person.

My life has been in limbo for eight years, and repeated rejection has left me having to prove my worth over and over again. At this stage, you’d think I’d get the message. I’ve been through many rejections from family, friends, co-workers and from my own native countrymen and women in Trinidad and Tobago.

It hurts, I am not going to lie. Rejection knocks you off balance. I’ve learnt to own my anger, sadness and the feeling of not being enough. I accept and feel the pain, as raw as it is in that moment. Then I transition to hope, because that’s something that not even the Home Office can take away from me. 

What does this latest rejection mean for my future? Peace comes with a lot of goodbyes, and eventually I may have to say goodbye to the life and friends I’ve made here in the UK. That’s normal—we all have to let go of something or someone in life—but I am not ready to give up the people around me and the work I am doing here just yet. There are still many people to help and there is much work to be done.

As I reflect on why I left Trinidad and Tobago, I am struck by the fact that if I hadn’t sought asylum in the UK, I wouldn’t be free to be myself in the way I am now. I wouldn’t be the person I am today. The social and public discrimination that I suffered there felt like a dog collar on me—at any time anyone could and did show their bigotry in bullying and even violence. 

I am not returning to that persecution, nor am I going to live like that again as long as I still draw breath. I’ll keep fighting, dear reader, but I know I’m getting closer to the coast, and there may be a moment when I have to start a new journey. I realise how much I hate arriving at a destination. Transition is always a relief; destination means death to me. So, if I could figure out a way to remain forever in transition, in the disconnected and unfamiliar, I could remain in a state of perpetual freedom.