Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Asylum stories - Terminated

Yodit came to me from the Red Cross. They called me as one of a small group of people, largely Christians, who accommodate homeless victims of the asylum system in their own homes.

Yodit turned out to be a young African woman, pretty and sylish, very polite, with good English, but with a weary, defeated air, and clearly nervous about sharing with me, a stranger. She had been living in Home Office accommodation very nearby. The landlord had changed the locks on her room because her money and accommodation had been "terminated" by the Home Office after her claim for asylum was refused. They were "too busy" to let her back in to retrieve her few belongings until the next day, and then wouldn't give her a two minute lift to my place, leaving her in the rain with her carrier bags. She had to spend her last few pounds for a taxi as I was at work.

Over the next few days Yodit unburdened her heart to me.

Her parents had died in a road accident. Brought up here and there, her relatives in time arranged her passage to England; she came equipped with an asylum-claim that the Home Office had no difficulty seeing through, a story about her being discovered in an illegal lesbian relationship. Waiting in desperate loneliness in a hostel, far from every tie of family, faith or friendship, absolutely against her character, like a lost teenager, she fell into bed with a guy from Zimbabwe, who disappeared from her life the next morning, leaving her confused, ashamed - and HIV positive - what seemed to her like justice for her pretended gayness.

Before her diagnosis, she fell in with a guy from her country who really seemed to love her; he expressed his love by insisting to not use a condom. When she was diagnosed, she didn't want to tell him, for fear of losing him, was wracked by guilt at having maybe infected him, and still he insisted, by force, on unprotected sex. As she described her lover, who took money from her whenever she had any, who had had many other girlfriends and maybe still did, the scales began to drop from her eyes, and she saw him for what he was - a user.

Guilt-wracked as she was, I arranged for a priest, a good man who understands asylum and much more, to hear her confession in the rituals of the church she's grown up with but gone very far from; but in truth, she'd already made her confession to me, and saw the rights and wrongs of her life much more clearly, which even made a marked improvement to her health: the hospital hadn't understoodthe stress that made her blood counts worsen so quickly, and now were surprised at her sudden strengthening.

After a few weeks, Yodit moved to London to work. I visited her once, found her working in an unlicenced African bar hidden underneath a shop: as I was shown in, my white face stilled all conversation, but they mostly soon relaxed. I wasn't happy about her working in such a male environment, but she said she was OK.

Our contact became less after that - her mobile phone was always broken....... I've still got her things, rotting in my cellar. I just had one call from her late one night: "I just wanted to say, in all the time I've been in England, the only time I really slept was at your house".

I blame myself for losing touch with her.


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