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As a refugee myself, I know the government’s Rwanda plan will only lead to more tragedy

3 min read

“Never give up on your dreams.” That’s the saying. But I lost my job, my family – everything – in the blink of an eye.

I was forced to flee Iran, the country I grew up in, because of my political activities as a member of the Kurdish minority. The journey I was forced to take left me scarred for life, and the most dangerous part of it was crossing the English Channel in a small boat. It was so foggy we could barely see.  

The government has said it will start sending single men, like me, who arrive this way to Rwanda. It claims this will cut off the hands of smugglers, but the reality is this will only punish people who are seeking sanctuary.  

When I claimed asylum, the authorities sent me to the Penally Barracks. This controversial ex-military site in Wales felt like a prison. To end up there, after having just fled prison and death, felt both ridiculous and at the same time scary and traumatic. In the drawings I made at the time, I showed how I felt about the situation.  

I know from my own experience of living in a 'safe' country that some regimes aren’t safe for everyone

As for the smugglers, they don’t care. They’ll just go to Rwanda and take people back from there. Smugglers are only interested in making money.

The UK, with its history of colonialism and global reputation, should take some responsibility for the world’s refugees. After all, it was the Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France in 1916 which drew the new borders of the Middle East. When it came to Kurdistan, Sykes and Picot must have had the hiccups, because they drew the wrong line and Kurdistan was divided into four parts, between four different countries.

I met thousands of displaced Afghans on my journey. Britain has been major player in Afghanistan for decades, so why hasn't it taken more responsibility for these refugees? 

It’s dangerous to assume that just because a refugee arrives alone it somehow means they don’t have a family. My brother was also forced to flee to the UK, and is now waiting on his asylum claim in North West England. We save up for weeks to see each other, because refugees are not allowed to work while they claim asylum and so must get by on £37 a week. Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda will inevitably separate people from their loved ones just when they need them the most.

Finally, after two years, I was granted refugee status. I have also been offered a job in a law firm, due to my language skills, which I have accepted. I am trying to take every opportunity available in order to survive.  

Many highly qualified refugees settle for much less in exchange for safety. There are many jobs in this country that only refugees will do. I doubt many people sitting in their warm houses, ordering takeaways, realise they are often delivered by a refugee and the food likely contains ingredients grown by a refugee in another European country.

When I think back to those days in Penally, it’s clear that the government’s new policy will only lead to more tragedy. In Penally alone, many residents self-harmed and suicide was a constant risk.    

I know from my own experience of living in a “safe” country that some regimes aren’t safe for everyone. The Rwandan government uses the same tactics against political opponents that my government did against me. Who knows, perhaps some Rwandans will be among those crossing the Channel. 


Raman is a former asylum seeker and has recently been granted refugee status in the UK. His full name has not been used for security reasons. 

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