And what do they want here?

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The Independent Online
Asylum-seeker stories.

Working, waiting

Arben (not his real name), a Kosovan Albanian, fled to Britain in 1999. We found him working in a south London car-wash, but he claimed he was "just helping a friend" and not being paid. He is 30.

I work here some of the time, and study English part-time. That is the main thing for me, to learn English, because I want to be an electrician again, like I was in Kosovo. I came here after the Serbs killed my family. I hid in a lorry, but I don't want to say any more about that. I know the West runs Kosovo now, but there are still many divisions among the Albanians, political and religious. The Kosovo Liberation Army beat me up because I would not join them. They broke my leg and gave me head injuries. I claimed asylum when I got here, but I haven't heard anything. I still want to wait and get asylum. Maybe it will take three or four years.


Fatah, 25, an Iraqi Kurd, has been granted "exceptional leave to remain" in Britain, but still fears reprisals against his family.

When I was seven, the Iraqis cut off my finger in front of my mother to get her to betray my father, a senior Kurdish politician. Her brother paid a bribe to get us out. Later I became a tae kwon do champion, but I refused to compete for Iraq, and was shot in the stomach during an attempt to kidnap me. My father paid a smuggler to get me out in a truck. I didn't know where I was going until I arrived in Dover in January last year. It took 12 days, so long that some of us thought we were being taken to America. They sent me to Leeds a few days later, and I got leave to stay after six months. After four years I may be allowed to remain for good. I can claim benefit, but things are still difficult. My big problem is the language. Without good English I can't get training or a job.


Dr Namasivayam Sathiyamoorthy, usually known just as Dr Moorthy, came to Britain in 1989 from Sri Lanka, where he was imprisoned and tortured for his human rights activities. A practitioner of South Asian ayurvedic medicine, he advises the NHS on complementary treatments, has been a guest of the Prince of Wales and became a Freeman of the City of London in 1998.

I came here on a fake visa. They wanted to send me back on the same plane, but it had already left. Amnesty International and MPs I knew helped me claim asylum. My experience has not been bad. I had to do odd jobs and work day and night in a petrol station until I could start practising. It took me some time to establish myself. In my first month I had one patient, but if you work hard and make your own success, the British public can accept you. There are people misusing the system, but I feel someone like me might not be so lucky if they were arriving today. People don't come here for a lavish life. They come because of human rights problems. Britain was supplying the Sri Lankan government with arms and torture instruments. If you don't want refugees applying for asylum here, you should stop that kind of thing happening. I still cannot walk properly or move my arms fully because of what was done to me.

Just arrived': The militiamen nearly killed me'

Juldeh Jalloh has been in Britain for two months, but he still trembles at the memory of the atrocities he witnessed in Sierra Leone. For all that, he is luckier than many other asylum seekers: a graduate and fluent English-speaker, he was able to fly to Britain rather than take the perilous overland route.

I was caught between the government and the rebels in Sierra Leone. The rebels killed my parents, older brother and the woman I might have married, but when they seized Freetown in 1999, they rescued me from prison. I was there because of my criticism of the government – its militiamen attacked me in my home and nearly killed me.

I escaped from the rebels after a few months and went to Guinea, where a man who used to do business with my father paid for me to come to the UK. I travelled with a courier who got me through immigration at Gatwick. I don't know how. He carried the travel documents. All I have now are my educational certificates. I arrived on 3 July, and applied for asylum two days later.

I've been for one screening interview. At this point I'm still very new in the system. I don't know how to go about things like registering with a doctor, and it is more difficult when you have no identity document such as a passport. I want to find a way to further my education, because in this country a 15-year-old can operate a computer. I'm 30, and I can't. I continue to have hopes of qualifying as a lawyer one day.

I feel uncertain at the moment, haunted by my memories. I need a new lease of life. I came to Britain because of the language and common culture – as the former colonial power, I think Britain has some responsibility towards Sierra Leone. But if things changed, I would go back. I still hope to find my younger brother, who is all I have left."