Everyone at ASSIST was delighted and relieved to hear that Victor, who has tirelessly volunteered for us and for many other local charities over the 11 year of his 'asylum limbo', has at long last been given leave to remain in the UK. Here is his account of the asylum process...
"I'm pleased to announce that I now have leave to remain, generally known as LTR in immigration parlance.
"Whilst this is very pleasing news that brings a sense of relief to me personally and my immediate family members who alongside me have waited for this outcome for thirteen years, I cannot help feeling a tinge of sadness when I think about my fellow asylum seekers whose asylum cases are still to be determined.
"Claiming asylum in the United Kingdom follows a stringent legal process where one has to prove that they deserve protection in this country for whatever reason the asylum claimant is leaving their country of birth to get safety in The United Kingdom.
"The legal process starts with a substantive interview before a Home Office caseworker who, after a series of repetitive questions that can last a few hours or days, has the authority to accept or decline an asylum claim.
"If the caseworker is satisfied during the interview, and after rigorously and extensively questioning the asylum claimant to determine if they warrant protection from the United Kingdom government, the caseworker will then inform the applicant in writing whether or not their claim for protection has been successful. An applicant whose application is accepted at the substantive interview stage becomes a refugee and they are accorded rights and privileges enjoyed by British citizens. An asylum application can be turned down. An asylum seeker whose claim is turned down is termed a refused asylum seeker. Refused asylum seekers have no rights and are subject to removal from the United Kingdom. That is the situation I found myself in after my initial asylum claim was refused together with subsequent appeals. This process lasted 11 years during which an attempt was made by The Home Office to remove me from the country in February 2019.
"It was during this eleven year period of asylum limbo that I immersed myself in volunteering and got associated with a variety of charities such as ASSIST Sheffield, Open Kitchen Social Club, CDAS (Committee To Defend Deportation Of Asylum Seekers) Migrants Organise, Epilepsy Action, The Cathedral Archer Project, Sheffield Tools For Africa, These Walls Must Fall, NACCOM, FURD Football Unites Racism Divides), The Sunday Centre, St Peter's Church Ellesmere Road, Christ Church Pitsmoor, SYMAAG, The City Of Sanctuary, St Marks, St Wilfrid's Centre, Sheffield Amateur Boxing Club, Spectrum Theater Group, Side By Side Drama Group, Ahmadiyya Muslim Centre, House Of Hope in Norfolk Park, St Cuthbert's Firvale, Burton Street Foundation, The Quaker Meeting House in the city centre, HARC (Homeless And Rootless At Christmas), South Yorkshire Refugee Law & Justice, The Crowded House Church, Time Builders, Sheffield Conversation Club and Sheffield Student Action For Refugees (STAR).
"This whole period was not without personal tragedy. I lost two siblings back home in Zimbabwe. My younger brother Michael in 2010 and youngest sister Barbara in 2017 both whose funerals I never attended due to immigration restrictions. In 2019 my second son Simba suffered a near catastrophic brain hemorrhagic stroke which nearly cost his life after being in a coma for two weeks. Volunteering was not only therapeutic offering me a structure and a purpose, it opened up opportunities to learn new skills, get connected, build up friendships and networks: it also helped me to get acquainted with a large section of members of the British society whose immense support and encouragement I'll forever cherish."