"The Home Office is there to discredit you, to push you to an extent where you will make a lot of mistakes."
My name is Isaac. I’m from Central Africa. I am claiming asylum in the UK because I was tortured in my home country for attending anti-government protests.
I fled. I didn’t have any specific idea about the asylum process when I came to the UK, because I was just running to save my life.
Before the interview, I was so nervous. I didn’t have all the information that I needed and I didn’t know what to expect at all.
As soon as we got into the room I felt as though I wasn’t welcome.
You know, if someone doesn’t give you the room to speak and doesn’t try to make you feel comfortable when you’re discussing trauma, it becomes incredibly stressful. It makes it impossible to give the right information that they need.
It wasn’t an interview - it was an interrogation. To me, an interrogation is just when you are interviewing a criminal, and someone who has committed a crime.
I wasn’t offered any water. My throat was dry. I was stressed. I’m not used to cold, and it was cold at the time. All of these things definitely had an impact on my interview.
They asked me over 300 questions in just a few hours.- Isaac
When I tried to tell them that I had been tortured, the interviewer didn’t ask me any other questions about it or try and find out about what had happened to me.
I thought they might have compassion to listen to my story, because I was running for my life. But they weren’t. That’s when I realised there is no compassion at the Home Office.
When I received my rejection letter, I knew that the Home Office is there to discredit you, to push you to an extent where you will make a lot of mistakes. They will use those mistakes to deny your application.
I’ve been waiting in limbo for two years. I’m not active - I’ve never been like this in my whole life.
Back in my country, I was a businessman. I’m going to start writing a business plan soon so that, when I get my status, I am ready.
Here are three things you can do take action and support people like Isaac.
‘Beyond Belief’ is a new report into the experience of the asylum interview of torture survivors seeking asylum in the UK. It calls for fundamental culture change at the Home Office.
For people fleeing persecution, the stakes of an asylum interview with the Home Office are extraordinarily high. It is the primary opportunity for survivors to explain what happened to them and why are afraid to return to their home country. If it is done badly, it can mean that someone is sent back to torture and persecution.