Illustration by Clara Nicoll

Displaced life: A surprise ending to my story of seeking asylum

In February, I returned to court for the hearing on my asylum judicial review claim...
March 27, 2024

Dear gentle reader, let’s conclude my story of seeking a new life here in the UK. In 2016 I had my first tribunal hearing in Bradford, West Yorkshire. The version of myself that entered the court building all those years ago was so naive and underprepared. I lacked proper legal representation. I was also emotionally unbalanced by my recent experiences, and clearly this showed: I received a refusal decision from the judge a few weeks later. It took me a long time to process this, and to regain my strength to battle the Home Office again. 

In the years between 2017 and 2024 I lodged appeals against the refusal decision. It was relentless, but I learned a great deal about myself—and about what truly matters to me. I also learned to live my life with purpose. And so, when I returned to stand before the immigration tribunal in Bradford this February, I felt calm. As I walked in, I had a sense of the person I’ve become, of how much I’ve grown since I first arrived in this country. 

The weather was not welcoming in Bradford. But there in the courtroom, I felt like I had people on my side. My -barrister was to my right; my friends were there behind me for moral support. I was not frightened by the Home Office representative sitting to my left. It could not have been more different to the situation in 2016, where I had no one but myself. 

As the judge entered the room with a smile, he immediately set the tone for the hearing. His patient and calm demeanour just flowed, making everyone feel at ease about the proceedings. He informed me of the protocols and my rights and told me that, if at any time I felt what was being said about me was too much to bear, I could ask for a break.

As I walked in, I had a sense of the person I’ve become

I felt so comfortable within myself, as I answered the Home Office barrister’s questions, as well as the judge’s. Next was a witness statement from a director at a charity I’ve volunteered with. Then it was time for my barrister to put forward our arguments as to why my judicial review should be permitted. She was incredible—both erudite and heartfelt, her words made such an impact, and I knew then that I had hit the jackpot in finally getting a solicitor and barrister who supported and believed in me. My case was complicated, but their focus never strayed. They were passionate about securing my safety and freedom. At the end of proceedings I felt pure joy, because I was proud of my solicitor, my barrister and myself. We had worked so hard on this judicial review appeal since September 2023.

The judge told us he would give his ruling within three weeks. I’d already waited nine and a half years, so I knew that I could stand it. “Patience is a virtue,” my grandfather always used to say to me, and it’s a virtue that I cultivated. 

On 11th March at 6.03pm, I received a call from my solicitor. She told me she had “some good news”, and that my judicial review appeal had been allowed. There are no words to describe how I felt in that moment. 

At the time of writing, the Home Office still have 14 days to appeal the judge’s decision, meaning until that time I can’t let myself relax. But whatever may come next, I am moving forward. It turns out that my story is not finished. It’s only just beginning. 


Editor’s note  

As Jason’s editor, I attended his hearing in Bradford in February to provide moral support, and he asked me afterwards to write a note with my reflections on the day to accompany his column. 

At the tribunal, I was delighted to watch Jason and his barrister clearly and carefully make the case for his appeal. Jason was so composed. It made me feel quite emotional to witness Jason’s barrister advocate for him, when he has advocated for so many others over the last few years, and has been forced to fight his own corner alone for so long. The judge was exemplary: calm, kind, thoughtful. I cannot imagine having to summon the strength to sit in the seat Jason sat in, and to argue for my right to remain in the country that I have called home for years. I am delighted with the result.

Sarah Collins