Asylum seeker explains why ‘inhumane’ rhetoric is so hurtful: ‘See the person behind the story’

Rishi Sunak pictured outdoors wearing a suit and tie at an event.

A bisexual woman who is currently seeking asylum in the UK has said the way the government treats people like her is “inhumane”.

Natalie, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, first came to the UK on a student visa when she was just 17. She grew up in a “very religious and conservative country” where women are sometimes forced to marry against their will.

Speaking to PinkNews, Natalie paints a picture of her home country that is both oppressive and cruel. She says women who don’t cover themselves up are seen as “whores” and that there is no way LGBTQ+ people can live openly or honestly. 

Natalie’s relationship with her family disintegrated when she met and fell in love with another woman while studying in the UK.

She is now waiting for her asylum application to be processed, and feels growing unease as the government becomes increasingly fixated on stopping asylum seekers. 

The recently-passed Illegal Migration Act changed the law so that those who arrive into the country via means deemed “illegal” by the government will be detained and removed, either to a third country or back to their home country. The government is also

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UK home secretary Suella Braverman wears a black and white patterned coat. LGBTQ+ and human rights campaigners have criticised Braverman for her comments about asylum seekers, including those from Sudan
Suella Braverman has championed a deal to deport asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via boats or on a lorry to Rwanda. This is despite the UK government admitting LGBTQ+ people face discrimination in the country. (Getty)

In the background, the government has been accused of ramping up anti-refugee rhetoric. The situation reached crisis point when Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson said those who don’t want to be housed on a barge should “f**k off back to France”.

The furore became even more heated when Diane Abbott, who is currently suspended from the Labour Party, responded with a reference to the 41 migrants killed in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

“These migrants have indeed f**ked off. To the bottom of the sea,” she tweeted, leading MPs to argue back and forth on social media about whose comments were more offensive.

Lee Anderson furore distracts from real issues facing migrants

For people like Natalie, the reality is simple – remarks like those made in recent days only serve to distract from the real issues people seeking asylum are facing in the UK right now.

For her part, Natalie wants the government to “see the person behind the story” – to understand that she is not just a statistic, but a human being with a life of her own. 

“I’m not very politically oriented but in terms of the community, it’s really hard,” Natalie tells PinkNews.

“People don’t leave their country because they don’t like their country or they hate their country. [They leave] just because they want to be themselves.”

“I think it’s very inhumane.” 

Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson pictured in his official parliamentary portrait. He is pictured wearing a suit, jacked and tie against a grey background.
Lee Anderson, Tory deputy chair, has faced condemnation after he said asylum seekers should “f**k off” back to France if they don’t want to be housed on a barge. (Parliamentary portrait)

She adds: “[People] don’t want to go and seek asylum – it just happens sometimes when you need to be in a place where it’s safe, where you have a future.”

Through tears, she says: “I feel very emotional about this because I have a lot of friends here who I met and they’re really nice people. They’ve been through a lot.” 

Natalie says many of the people seeking asylum that she knows are suffering from poor mental health and are left to deal with “dark thoughts” by a government that is increasingly hostile.

“People don’t know what to do… It’s hard to not know what’s going to happen.” 

Natalie’s message to Rishi Sunak, as talk of another general election looms, is simple but powerful. She wants him to listen to people who are seeking asylum and to see them as “humans”.

“Everyone has a story. I’m sure he has a story as well… he needs to be more considerate.” 

Sebastian Rocca is founder and CEO of Micro Rainbow, a charity that supports LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in the UK. He tells PinkNews that there is currently no workable “legal” route through which most people can get to the UK when fleeing violence and persecution.

Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow and a member of the Labour Party, is seen pictured at a pro-refugee rally in Parliament Square.
Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow and a member of the Labour Party, is seen pictured at a pro-refugee rally in Parliament Square. (Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

“Vulgar and callous comments like Lee Anderson’s generate headlines, but they are also a true reflection of the disdain with which the UK government regards asylum seekers,” Rocca says.

“For years the UK government and its home secretaries have demonised asylum seekers, lied about ‘legal routes’, and worked to create an asylum system that is as labyrinthine as it is punitive.

“The only legal and workable scheme for seeking asylum in the UK is the one for Ukrainian refugees. There is no ‘legal’ route for anyone else to claim asylum in the UK.”

Rocca says the recently-passed Illegal Migration Act is “effectively a ban on seeking asylum” and points out that a gay Ugandan fleeing his home country now has no legal or safe way to get to the UK. The law, he says, punishes people who are forced to flee war and persecution.

But the reality is that the act, and the government rhetoric that’s come with it, won’t stop people from seeking asylum in the UK. That’s because for most, it’s their last resort.

He says: “What we really need is an asylum system that saves people’s lives as opposed to a system that rejects humanity, compassion and solidarity.

“Micro Rainbow is here to do its part, to support any LGBTQI person that flees persecution and reaches the UK. It is time for the government to create safe legal routes, an asylum system that British people can be proud of.”

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