“You won’t believe what I’m about to say… in my home country Kuwait, we are not recognised as human.”
Fawad is 33 years old and from the Bedoon community in a secluded area of Kuwait. He had to leave his home because he faced persecution after protesting against the ruling family of the country. The Bedoon are discriminated against due to their ethnicity.
He is a single father of two in Rochdale. He arrived in the UK with his children in January 2020. They were hoping to find safety, have their human rights recognised and ultimately lead a normal life.
The ‘Bedoon’ or ‘Bidoon’ – which in Arabic means ‘without a country’ – are a community in Kuwait categorised as ‘illegal residents’ by Kuwaiti authorities. This renders many Bedoon stateless because they have no connection to any other country than Kuwait. They’re left with no official nationality.
Members of the Bedoon tribe can’t access essential services because of their ethnicity. Fawad’s wife passed away because the local hospital wouldn’t admit her.
Although Fawad’s family, including his grandparents and their parenborn in Kuwait, they were never registered as citizens, depriving them of fundamental rights.
“My friend suggested I seek safety in the U.K. as I would be treated justly. I don’t know anyone here.”
Upon their arrival on British soil, Fawad claimed asylum and had his screening interview shortly after. But it took the Home Office 15 months to invite him for his substantive interview (the main interview, sometimes called an ‘asylum interview’), despite the Home Office website stating that ‘your asylum interview will take place soon after your screening.’
In February 2022, Fawad was notified that he had to go through a second interview, something that happens very rarely in the asylum system. Fawad has been in limbo for three years now. He has two school-age children but receives very little financial support from and is banned from working.
“Every time my solicitor chases the Home Office for the status of my case, they respond with different excuses: first, it was Covid-19 then the Afghanistan crisis. After that it was the invasion of Ukraine and now the huge backlogs.
“It seems the Home Office is in a psychological war with me, and I don’t get whether it is racism or what. No one deserves to live like this, especially young, innocent children.”
According to Home Office guidelines, caseworkers should have decided the outcome of Fawad’s asylum claim within six months of the substantive interview. But this rarely happens for anyone at the moment.
Covid did affect the asylum system, but the long delays go back to before the pandemic. Many of the people Refugee Action supports have been waiting years.
Fawad, as any other parent would, worries for his children’s future.
“If they give a yes or no, I’d have an answer, but they keep me in limbo. It seems the Home Office enjoys torturing us. It’s not about me but about the future of two young children.
“I don’t think about myself much but my children; so many times, I asked myself, was it better to die in prison in Kuwait or for my children to have a better life here?
“I am responsible for my children; I constantly have internal challenges whether I destroyed their lives or whether they will have a future here.”
A report published by Free Movement revealed that, as of June 2022, the average waiting time to be registered as an asylum seeker was 20 weeks, so the statistics which reflect long delays in the system only tell part of the story. If the people waiting to be registered are included ‘the delays are much longer than they appear from the official data.’
Figures from November 2022 show that the number of people waiting for the initial decision reached 122,206, and one third of them have been waiting between one and three years. Behind every single asylum claim is a story like Fawad’s.
Fawad hopes to find a job once his status is approved, so he can provide a better and more comfortable life for his children.
He says he would rent a clean and nice place to live in and get a car to drive them around. He dreams about his children going to university to become professionals. On top of all, he wants to be able to call the UK home one day and belong to this country, rather than none.