For me, destitution has a human face. Earlier this month I had the privilege of visiting a Church’s Refugee Welcome Centre in Birmingham to hear about people’s experiences of the hostile environment.
One person we spoke to was Zaza,Zaza requested that we change his name to protect his identity. 37, from Turkey. He had fled in 1994 because of political persecution, after the military burned his house down.
Here in Britain, he had hopes of a life not lived in fear. What he found was a long and bureaucratic process. Zaza said that the Home Office ‘never listen to what you say,’ and he interpreted the long decision making process as deliberate: ‘they use silence to torture you; to physically finish you.’.
A lawyer by trade, he was denied the right to work in Britain, left with empty pockets and no roof over his head. ‘They destitute you,’ he told us. ‘No one should be made homeless.’
Zaza was in little doubt that the Home Office did so in order to making life so unbearable that he would choose to leave the country altogether. But in reality, he had little choice to leave his own country, and good reason to fear returning.
We asked Zaza what he would change about the asylum system. His answer was clear: ‘no detention, no destitution, no long delays…asylum shouldn’t be a crime… but it’s worse than murder. You are like a diseased person’’
As Churches, we believe that in actively visiting destitution on asylum seekers and migrants, the hostile environment strips individuals of dignity. Destitution demeans and dehumanises. It is a fate that can never justifiably be inflicted on a person, not a policy tool to be used as a means to an end. To do so is to disavow a truth that lies at the heart of our faith – that each and every one of us is a child of God, made in God’s likeness and worthy of care and respect.
We remembered this as we prayed with those we met in Birmingham that day. They remain in our prayers. Please include them in yours as together, we take action to #EndHostility.
|↑1||Zaza requested that we change his name to protect his identity.|