This book contains seven personal stories of seven individual refugees in the United Kingdom. All of them were supported by Boaz Trust, a Christian organisation accommodating destitute asylum seekers and refugees in Greater Manchester. The author, Dave Smith, the founder of Boaz Trust, was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2012, but returned it in protest at UK asylum policies.
Each man or woman’s account starts in the the refugee’s home country, where they suffer different but horrendous persecution, as a result of which they flee to northern Europe. The main part of each story concerns their attempts to negotiate the immigration system in our country. All bar one succeeded, although many had to endure many years, even up to a decade, in limbo beforehand. Each story, written up using the asylum seeker’s own words, is harrowing, the emotion heightened by their being rambling, jumbled and muddled. Frequently the refugees do not understand the process, often they made mistakes, sometimes they cheated, but they were desperate. The reader understands why.
Some of the refugees tried to address wider concerns, such as how the refugee crisis is depleting the third world of skilled people. Most of the asylum-seekers have well-qualified and started out in life as moderately well-to-do and many were involved in opposing repressive regimes.
The British Home Office come out of this book very badly: heartless; prejudiced against refugees, presuming that each application is bogus and making sweeping assumptions about countries being safe when they’re not; incompetent, losing files and not knowing the law properly. What I see is a service acutely over-stretched, staffed by overworked officers, solicitors and social workers, making mistakes and pressured by social, political and security issues.
The author, in his blurb, admits that Refugee Stories is not a book to enjoy, and it isn’t. Very sobering, very disturbing.
You can buy this book from Instant Apostle.
(I can think of no suitable illustration for this review, so above you see a view of Manchester.)