Welcome Back To The Human Race

5 Feb


Congratulations ma’am, on closer inspection you are a human being after all. Three years ago you were walking around in the snow with no home and not a penny – your asylum claim and section 4 support had been denied so you ceased to exist and were left to the kindness of strangers for support. This snowy day you have that priceless piece of plastic in your purse declaring that you have Three Years Discretionary Leave To Remain. All RASAG members and friends wish you the very best of everything Azizeh and we give heartfelt thanks to the UKBA for acknowledging that you, a grandma from Tehran who survived a terrifying journey to flee persecution and seek sanctuary in Britain, are human after all.


A Hate Crime Named Destitution

22 Nov


“Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”[1]


“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…”[2]


Hate crime occurs when an antagonist is able to hurt a victim, physically, mentally, financially, sexually or in any manner where the motivation for committing that crime against you, or the expectation of being able to get away with that crime against you is discrimination, inequality or intended hatred.


During a recent survey of refugees and asylum seekers of all categories of status from destitute through to permanent resident’s status, almost 85% had experienced hate crime.  Among those 15% of people not having experienced hate crime 2/3 were destitute asylum seekers, so must be either lucky, scary, or fibbing.


The police do not have a sanctuary policy, convention or attitude towards the victims of hate crime.  If you are the victim of a hate crime and you are “a destitute” you will not be able to call the police.  You cannot call the police, although you are vulnerable.  You cannot call the police because you are vulnerable. You cannot call the police because the police do not have a sanctuary policy/convention/attitude towards the victims of hate crime.




Destitution in the United Kingdom is one of the few things experiencing growth of any kind.  It is not just asylum seekers or “failed asylum seekers”, “illegal immigrants”, “migrants”, whatever else we are supposed to call them.  It is also children, native British children.  It is the mothers of those children.  Men.  It is lots of men of every shape and walk of life, excluded from the work force through unemployment, excluded from the benefits system for one sanction or another and left to the “kindness of strangers” for their subsistence.  Mostly though, destitution is asylum seekers, failed asylum seekers, whatever we are supposed to call them…


Destitution – having no way of providing for your own essential needs; food, shelter, warmth; having no recourse to public funds, no way or means or permission by law to provide for your needs by way of earning money or trading – anything to generate income or material gain being illegal and very much enforceable by law. – it is hard to fathom of destitution’s existence in Britain in 2012.  Not only is it here in Britain in 2012, it’s very much on the rise and it has a face and if your face looks like its face, you are going to be destitute, or “a destitute” as you may end up referring to yourself in the bitter fullness of time.


Destitution. If you are not from Iran, do not speak Farsi as a first Language and did not enter the country in 2008 breathe a sigh of relief, you are not the most likely candidate to be, or shortly become, destitute.  If you are an Iranian Farsi speaker who entered the UK in any other year, don’t get too comfy, if you are not already destitute you are still far more likely to become so than anyone else.  If you are a lone African from any country you are next in line, after the Farsi speaking Iranians for, well, nothing…  Kurds, you’re looking at about a 50/50 shot, but you’re much better off if you’re from Iraq than Iran…  Iraqis are not exactly streaming ahead in the status gaining polls though – they are the second largest destitute group by country of origin according to recent polls and the Kurdish population appears to be far higher compared to the proportion of Kurdish people from Iran suggesting that the non-Kurdish ethnic “majority” of Iraq is, for some reason, invisible, whether not here or here and not seen.


. The only legal, safe, perhaps “moral” way for these people, these destitutes to survive is to depend on charities, community groups, religious organisations and other good minded folks to provide for their needs – they must depend, in short, on the kindness of strangers, whoever you are.




Knowing someone who isn’t there is not as easy as it might sound.  It’s hard when people you know, maybe love, are not there, especially when they are, technically, there.  While Shakespeare pondered on whether Hamlet should “be or not to be” and the Beatles proposed to “Let It Be” the UKBA has brought us “don’t be”, a rather more problematic paradigm by which to attempt to live.


Let’s take to the statistics once again.  This is a Farsi speaking Iranian destitute.  The year of entry to the UK is 2006.  The method of entry is “in the back of trucks – it took about seven months…”  Initial claim and appeals rejected, all support withdrawn – made destitute in 2008 abject poverty and degradation prevails – nevertheless, there is no option of return voluntarily or by forceful removal to Iran.   She is 65 years old.




“There but for the grace of God go I”



Destitution is a state in which you are bound – certain – to experience hate crime, but unfortunately, it is also the exact same “evil cradling” which will prohibit you from seeking retribution, justice or even recognition for your suffering.  Until the British police are prepared to accept and conform to a common sense of decency and morality by which the victims of crime, and most especially hate crime, do not become the suspect, there will be no “hate crime reporting” revolution, but if there is not an end to this abhorrent discrimination, the probability of other forms of revolt will no longer be dismissible.

In June 2012 Glasgow City Council moved that “The people of Glasgow, no matter how welcoming, cannot be expected to pick up the pieces where UKBA fails”.  “Here Here” say all of those who have met the man upon the stair and wish, and wish, he was not there.



He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away














[1] Tennessee Williams, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, 3,xi


[2] Hughes Mearns, “Antigonissh”  1899

Three Little Words

2 Aug

June 2012  people gathered on Sheffield train station to welcome back Lemlem Hussein Abdu…  The train rolled in and tears rolled down the faces of many of those who had fought so hard to bring her back to Sheffield.  We clapped as Lemlem was assisted off the train with her bags and Gina Clayton (Chair ASSIST, Vice Chair City of Sanctuary) breathed three magical words “We did it”.   Lemlem’s case is an incredibly poignant one for activists in Sheffield.  For many years Lemlem has been the face of both injustice and forbearance as she has moved through the community with kindness and humour whilst also embodying the fallibility of the UK asylum system and it’s Achilles heel of enforcing destitution upon people who cannot leave.

Lemlem was denied asylum by the UKBA, despite having nowhere else in the world to go and having made Sheffield her home.  They tried to deport her to Ethiopia no less than three times, despite the fact that Ethiopia and Lemlem’s place of birth Eritrea are different countries.  No-one in possession of the facts could fail to see that the Home Office were making an unjustified decision, cynically using the Ethiopian travel document that Lemlem had been issued to dispose of her from Britain on a technicality.  The British may be fond of a bit of bureaucracy, but generally I do not think we like a cheat and using the rule book to defeat someone in this dishonest way is certainly “not cricket”.  To understand the special significance of Lemlem’s case and those three little words, you need only look to the left or the right of Lemlem and her friends.

On Jubilee Bank Holiday on a council estate in Sheffield a 61 year old lady makes her way to a friend’s home.  Denied asylum by the UK, this lady has been destitute for the last three years.  She is a good friend of Lemlem’s and knows that Lemlem is going to report to the UKBA soon and lodge her fresh claim.  The friend and the lady discuss Lemlem’s situation, along with other people that they know – needless to say there is little good news to share.

Two women who have been brought to the UK and kept as slaves have had their cases accepted and have each been granted one year to remain in the UK.  In each case that year is about to end.  In the case of Rose*, she has been trafficked here and used as a prostitute, escaping after three years and hiding for one year before applying for asylum and eventually (after being rejected), being granted the one year…  In that time she has managed to secure a place at University, but living from day to day with her fresh claim, has no idea if she will be able to take up that offer.  She regularly volunteers to go into schools and talk to pupils about what she has gone through and the impact that her past and current situation has on her life, saying that “If I can help one young person to think before they judge someone and to understand that you do not know what that person has been through, that is enough.”  To see the look of respect and appreciation on the children and teachers faces for her honesty and her generosity in sharing her story is a powerful sight.

Laya* was brought here through family and kept as an agricultural labourer without pay or human rights for seven years.  She has made a life for herself in Sheffield and has no family nor any friends or prospects to return to in her place of origin, which she left as a teen.  Applying now for further leave to remain, she is unable to make any plans or entertain hopes for her future as she believes that returning to her home country would finish her life.  She says “This is the first time I have a life.  Growing up I didn’t have a dad – he died when I was born.  My mum died when I was little and I went to my family in the village.  We made money by selling things to people on the bus like food and water.  I came here to help my cousin – I did everything for her but she gave me no money, no home, I have to work all the time, I sleep outside with the animals…  This is the first time I have a life.  I do voluntary work, I see my friends, sometimes we cook together.  What will I do if I have to go?  Where will I go?”

A young family has been issued with removal orders for the 6th June.  The friend has been to visit them the day before the jubilee and UKBA officers have arrived demanding that the three family members, mum dad and 1 year old son come to the door shouting “Are you all here?  ARE YOU ALL HERE!”  Seeing the friend’s children they say “Who’s this?  Who is here?” and when they realise that the family have company they confer upon whether they should come back later.  Agreeing between themselves that they will come back in half an hour they leave and shortly afterwards, they all leave, dragging a few possessions in one suitcase and a bag, mother and son departing with the friend in the car, dad walking away down the road on his own.  The little one did not know what was happening and was happy to be going in a car with some friends.  His dad’s “I love you” did not sting his eyes with tears.  His little brother or sister is bulging in his mummy’s tummy, seven months gone.  What could be more fun than a trip out for the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee?

Now the jubilee has arrived.  The 61 year old lady and her friend sit on a lawn and share a meal – baked beans and rice.  The friend has “out-of-date” chicken kiev’s, but the lady refrains owing to them not being halal.  They discuss their friends.  They discuss Lemlem.

“Surely they could not lock her up again?” they say.

“She has more support and a better chance than anyone…”

More chance than another friend who has been detained since before Christmas, been on hunger strike for weeks on end and has recently called from a distant Capital to say “delete the petitions and every reference to me on the internet…”  More chance than a friend who after many years waiting and three detailed interviews by the Home Office has finally received a 43 page refusal letter, with so many clauses that he cannot expect legal representation and will now have to represent himself in court.  More chance than the lady herself who has little significance to a system that simply does not accept that she is here.

So yes, we were happy for Lemlem.  We were pleased that she has been granted “Three Years to Remain”.  They are so generous.  The only sad thing is that those three little words “We did it” are so seldom heard.

Lemlem’s Coming Home! | Lemlem Must Stay

26 Jun

Lemlem’s Coming Home! | Lemlem Must Stay.

Flight Halted – Next Action

22 Jun

Paul Blomfield MP Sheffield Central at Lemlem’s demo – good man!

Lemlem Hussein Abdu will not be deported on Sunday.  Paul Blomfield has informed us “Immigration Minister Damian Green has agreed to my request to meet me and the Bishop of Sheffield and to halt Lemlem’s deportation until that meeting. We will be highlighting the support that Lemlem has within Sheffield, and that her deportaion would shame the UK.”

It is essential that we give Lemlem a massive show of support now by emailing Damien Green and Theresa May telling them that we love Lemlem, she should be released from detention immediately and granted leave to remain in the UK.

Email addresses for Home Secretary Theresa May(she has a lot) are;

Theresa May is at; mayt@parliament.uk



Damian Green:



Sheffield NEEDS Lemlem

22 Jun

Thursday 21st June 2012 1pm, Sheffield.  People  gathered to bear witness to the gross injustice in the asylum case of Lemlem Hussein Abdu of Eritrea, 1/1/50 who is currently detained at Yarls Wood Immigration_Removal Centre, Bedfordshire.

Lemlem was born in a village in 1950 in what is now Eritrea   She was married at 12 and spoke Tigrinyan.  She lived a traditional life and was not able to read or write her native language.  Lemlem was surrounded by her family and friends. parents, children, grandchildren…  In 1978 her village was burned down.  Lemlem lost everything.  She fled.  She survived.

Lemlem’s story from then on is well documented – Ice and Fire Theatre Company have made an “Asylum Dialogue” http://iceandfire.co.uk/ of her life story and previous campaigns by the Sheffield community against the wrongdoing of the Uk Border Agency  have highlighted the details…  In 2007  Lemlem was deserted in London, with no money, no ID, no family, no friends, and no English with which to cry for help.  She was 55 years old, disabled and destitute.  

Lemlem came to Sheffied under an arbitrary dispersal order from the UK Border Agency: Against all odds, Lemlem  made a family: Lemlem made a home.

Lemlem is in detention for the third time in the UK.  The Uk Border Agency has booked flights to the Ethiopian capitol Addis Ababa for the third time, despite the fact that their establishment has now accepted that Lemlem Hussein Abdu is Eritrean by ethnicity, not Ethiopian.

Lemlem at demo apposing Eritrean Ambassador UK, Feb 2011

Lemlem talking at IT Club on Monday 18th June 2012 on subject of reporting to UKBA Tuesday 19th June 2012 

Please contact the airline on their facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/flyethiopian – messages on their page will send shockwaves to the highest levels of their commercial sales team – it will hit them were it hurts, in the pocket.

They are a courteous and charming airline, and will be glad to hear your concerns about their customers and crew – airlines have stopped deportations before now.  Flight ET 701 to Ethiopia 21.00 June 24th 2012 Ethiopian Airlines, Heathrow – Addis Ababa.

Please keep up to date with campaign new and actions by joining the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/102878976433976/


Please see Sheffield’s response to Lemlem being taken away from us:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APeHGS-NTmc&feature=player_embedded

Please keep trying for Lemlem, for peace, for love, for all of us

Happy refugee week Lemlem – Wishing you were not so terrified, brutalised, denied…

Sheffield Loves Lemlem

20 Jun


Lemlem is 62 years old and was born in Eritrea.  The village she comes from was a known support base for the Eritrean Liberation Front and consequently in 1978 her village was attacked by Ethiopian forces and burnt to the ground, leaving Lemlem with no surviving relatives.

Lemlem fled to Sudan and lived in a refugee camp, eventually achieving refugee status.  Finding herself with few opportunities as a refugee in Sudan, she applied for work as a domestic servant in Saudi Arabia and got herself a job with a family.  The family regularly visited the UK, and wanted to take Lemlem with them to care for their children, so they obtained an Ethiopian passport for her;

Lemlem is illiterate in both Tigrinya (native tongue) and Arabic (2nd lang), so never applied for, read or even held her own passport.  As Eritrea had gained Independence from Ethiopia in 1993 the passport was fraudulent in relation to her nationality at the very least.

In 2000, Lemlem’s employers visited the UK and took her with them. She had a fall and suffered a broken leg while looking after the family’s children:  She has never fully recovered. Her employers stopped paying her wages as she could no longer carry out some heavy physical tasks.  On a subsequent visit to the UK in 2007 the family abandoned her in a shopping centre with no money and no identification. She has sight and mobility problems.

Lemlem had no prior knowledge of the asylum system in the UK, but came to understand that she would need to register herself and file a claim for “asylum”, which she did.  She was refused.  Lemlem was sent to live in Sheffield, and despite her traumatic history and tragic absence of any living relative or friend, Lemlem threw herself into the Sheffield community, attending ESOL classes, conversation clubs and community groups with an optimism and generosity of spirit that amazed anyone that knew even the remotest detail of her past or current situation.

After her appeals against her refusal for asylum were turned down, Lemlem became destitute.  She became ineligible for any form of public housing or support; having nowhere else in the world to go, she became dependent on charities (notably ASSIST) and the goodwill and generosity of Sheffield people.

In July 2010 and again in October 2010 Lemlem was detained by the UK Border Agency, sent to a detention centre and flights were booked to deport her to Ethiopia, a place where she knows no one, does not speak the language and would receive no form of support.  She could not have survived there.  Thankfully on both occasions injunctions halted the removal orders and spared Lemlem at the very last minute.  No-one who knew Lemlem could bear the thought of her being detained again, never mind deported, so she did not return to the address from which she had been forcibly removed and did not report to sign at the UK Border Agency, the other location from which she had been forced into detention.

A fresh claim for asylum has been prepared for Lemlem by a devoted voluntary legal team.  Friends of Lemlem and those involved in previous campaigns were on standby for Tuesday 19th June 2012 when Lemlem would report to the UK Border Agency and re-register herself.

Lemlem spoke to Ian Nesbit at RASAG IT Club on Monday;



On Tuesday 19th June 2012 Lemlem Hussein Abdu, 62, Eritrean was detained by the UK Border Agency and sent to a detention centre.  She will be deported to Ethiopia on Sunday 24th June 2012, 9pm.

A protest will take place outside Sheffield Town Hall , Thursday 21/06/12, 1pm.  We will march to Vulcan House to protest outside the UK Border Agency offices.  They know we are coming and will be expecting a reasonable crowed and a bit of noise disturbance (they shut the curtains on previous occasions).  It is essential that this demonstration gets as many people as possible.

Lots of people will be busy at work and not around town, but if everyone could convince SOMEONE to go, it could make the difference.

Someone sharing the e-petition on facebook today wrote “AMIGOS,POR FAVOR: tirem um minuto para assinar esta peticao. E una historia distante para muitos de nos mas sera una assinatura que pode evitar uma sentenca de morte. Estejam onde estiverem, e isso que ira pesar. Va la, uma pequena contribuicao, um pequeno gesto mas una vida que se salva!!!”  – I wasn’t sure what it meant but Bing informed me that the last part means,” spare a moment to save a life.”

It really is that important.

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/groups/102878976433976/