Thursday, 14 April 2022

'If you were me, what would you do?'

Dear Mr Johnson

I am a 19-year-old medical student from Sudan. I have just been released from jail, where I spent six months being severely tortured. My passport has been confiscated and I have been warned that because of my political activities as a critic of the current military dictatorship in my country, my life is at risk.

My father was murdered by members of a pro-government militia group ten years ago. But my uncle is a successful cardiologist who has been living and working in London for many years, and he has offered to sponsor me and support me if I seek asylum in the UK.

As I no longer have a passport – and as I have no means of obtaining a replacement – the only way I can leave Sudan is by paying smugglers to help me get out illegally. My uncle says he will pay whatever the smugglers charge to bring me to the UK, but I know that the final stage of the journey will be in a rubber boat across the English Channel.

I also know that the UK does not accept asylum applications made from outside the UK, and I have read that you now intend to deport asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via ‘unofficial’ routes to Rwanda.

I have no wish to live in Rwanda, so my question to you is this: if you were me, what would you do? As far as I can see, your government has provided no ‘safe and legal way’ for me to apply for asylum in the UK. 

In other words, you have made it totally impossible for me – and for thousands like me – to seek sanctuary in your country. I can only conclude that even though the UK is a founding signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, this has been your deliberate intention all along.

But here’s the thing: I’m still going to try. I shall just have to hope that the smugglers will find some way to get me into the UK without anyone noticing. I’ll stay with my uncle, out of sight, and hope that somehow I’ll be able to make a new life for myself. Despair does that to people: it convinces us that anything is better than giving up hope.

So please, Mr Johnson, think again. Your plan won’t work, it won’t keep us out. It probably means I’ll never be a doctor, though. 

Which is a shame, both for you and for me.

(Author’s note: this is an imagined case study based on current UK government policy as I understand it.)