About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Azarnoosh wearing a parka jacket and the hood hiding their face

A Azarnoosh

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

United Kingdom



Nina Sedaghati

“My dream is to meet my family because the situation I have here is very hard,” says Azarnoosh (pseud, 45), an Iranian asylum-seeker in England. He has not been able to leave the UK for 13 years. “I am stuck here and it is not logical for me. I cannot go to my country or any other country,” he explains. The experience has taken a toll: “I was very active in my work, and [my] family and I had lots of hobbies. Since I came here, I have become spiritless.” Prior to this situation, Azarnoosh could move freely on an international scale: “I am an educated person from an educated family. I was an officer on a ship for eleven years. I traveled to all the countries in the world except the United States.” In the past, he says, his dream was “to get married… Whatever I wanted, I had.” Azarnoosh regrets the circumstances that keep him from his family and the life he once had: “If I didn’t face problems, I would never have requested immigration here in 100 years. I had a very successful life.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Thank you. Could you tell me what kind of house you live in? 
Now … uhh… I live in a house that we cannot call a flat, but this is a house that I rented and paid for everything. 

Is it private? 
Yes, it is private.

Do you live alone? 

Could you explain how your situation is? 
It is very general. What kind of situation should I explain? 

Generally, your life. 
uhh… it has been thirteen years that I have been living here. I got a job and all my expenses are on me. And … uh… I try to live my life. 

How do you spend your time? 
hmm… most of the time I work in Victoria. After my job, I am at home. I don’t have much time to do something or any relatives to spend time with. On the weekends, I am at home watching the news and TV and buying groceries. 

Don’t you have a certain kind of hobby? 
hmm… I have hobbies. I am a special swimmer. Oh sorry, I meant I am a professional swimmer. I swim professionally. But I don’t have the feeling to have a hobby. No, no, I don’t have. Uhhh… I feel like I am depressed to have hobbies. 

You said you had been here for thirteen years? 
Nearly thirteen years. It is the thirteenth year.  

I know it has a background. Could you tell me about your background, how did you come and where were you? 
So, I am an educated person and I was raised in an educated family. Before I came to England, I worked abroad. I was an officer on a ship for eleven years. I traveled to all the countries in the world except the United States. There was no restriction for me while traveling to the counties. I traveled to each country freely and I was treated respectfully. Because of some of the personal problems that happened to me on one of my trips, I decided to stay in England. I came here completely lawfully and applied for refuge, but unfortunately, I have been here for about thirteen years. Every two years a letter is sent to me that is written that you were here from that year and you haven’t committed any crime, but unfortunately, we don’t believe you. We cannot return you to Iran due to Iranian policies. You can live here without any support until you break the law. That’s it. I don’t know how they propose this because they know without any support a person cannot live here properly. Suppose when I came here, except for the cash that I had with me and I had the maximum of fifteen thousand pounds that I transferred from account to account before the sanctions were involved. The statement still exists. I received some help from friends and earned some money from work. And they know that legally I am not allowed to work, but they let me work for some time. Then without informing me, they canceled my work permission from other authorities. And it is so weird. 

Before you came to England, you traveled to Europe, not as a refugee but as a normal passenger. 
Yes, a business trip. 

When you came to England and asked for asylum, what were the good and bad things? What were the things that were according to the refuge and what were not?  
hmm… because most of the diplomas that I have are from England. I loved a country that was English-speaking. I didn’t really want to be in a specific country like England, Germany or any other one. The situation I was not expecting, happened to me in my country. At that time, I was in England. Because I didn’t have anywhere to go, I decided to stay here. Because I am an English speaker and my documents (diplomas) are from England, I can build my future. I didn’t have any pictures or information about immigration. I thought I lived in a country in Europe where they claim to have human rights and they know the situation of Iran. I felt that I could be helped here. If there had been a chance to reverse back in time. I would have never and ever chosen this country. 

It was really different from what you expected? Like their behavior with refugees. 
Definitely, for me, it was completely different from what I heard about. 

Could you explain to me how you have felt living here? Before you came here when you were in Iran and traveling and you had your job, what qualities and talents did you have?  After your refuge and the England government’s treatment, being explained by you, what effects did it have on your feelings? 
Well in general, I was a very active person whether at work or in my family. Inherently, I am a helpful person to the people around me. I didn’t like to be inactive. I was very active in my work, and family and I had lots of hobbies. Since I came here, I have become spiritless and uhh… I cannot say I faced depression or maybe I am depressed. I don’t have any information about it. I have become a down and angry person here. I cannot stand anything. For example, when I explain the answer to a question to someone and if they don’t catch it, I yell at them. I cannot say I am happy with my behavior. All the things that happened to me, I blame the England government and my wrong choice. 

How do you feel being far from your family? 
A very bad feeling because I was exceedingly emotional and dependent on my family. I am an only child in the family. Because I am far from my mother, she got depressed, and even though she is not that old, she has had heart surgery. It has been thirteen years since I haven’t visited my family. 

How did you handle the thirteen-year living here? What did help you? 
A little percentage of hope. I spent thirteen years of my life which is the most important and my money. And I don’t look at anything else. It is like I have fallen down a well. I requested the government of England if you cannot reject me, let me go to another country. Unfortunately, they replied, you are not allowed to go to another country. And here they say, “we don’t believe you and we can’t send you to Iran.” I said, “If you do not believe me, send me to Iran, my destiny is obvious. They will either kill me or let me live. I am stuck here and it is not logical for me. I cannot go to my country or any other country. I have to live here until I commit a crime. Somehow I can control myself. We are all human and we can make mistakes. Until when should I live with these conditions? Legally I should not, but I work here.

Do you think uhh…if your condition doesn’t change, will you lose your hope here? 
Now I have lost hope. I considered myself as a piece of cloth or paper uhh… in a stream and it flows until the stream flows without its own choice. I cannot make any decisions. There is a chance that this piece of cloth sticks garbage in the stream and stops. At that time a sanitation worker comes and cleans the stream. And that is the time of death. I can give this example to my life here, a piece of cloth in a stream. 

Uhh… hasn’t this immigration helped you to improve? 

For example, some people learned to be more patient or they have defeated challenges in their lives. Is there anything that has improved you? 
In fact, no. In contrast to other people here, I haven’t learned anything. I came here with the great hope to improve my life here and live like a normal person. Although the opportunities were not given to me and didn’t let me live like a normal person, unfortunately, they also took the important things away from me like my confidence. I have become a useless person if I have to be honest. They have killed my capabilities. I feel like I am another person. I am completely another person emotionally and mentally. We are humans and we all make mistakes. If I am asked about my biggest mistake or regret in my life, I will say coming to England. 

Uhh… I want to ask some previous questions. Could you tell me why you left your country and became a refugee? You could stay abroad. You chose to come to England and immigrated to England. 
When I was at university, an issue came up, but my father solved it. My father had some relationships and money because money can solve problems in Iran. I had my job and I didn’t have any financial problems or standard of living. On one of my trips because for some reason, I found out that if I went back to Iran, some problems would arise. I didn’t know about the level of the problem. With the consideration of Iran that I have, I know that small problems get more serious. In the other words, we are not judged and arranged fairly. They judge you arbitrarily and based on their desire. It depends on your luck and the relationships you have with the principles to reduce the chance of your punishments. I could not risk it and go back and face the challenges. I could go back if there was a chance that they judged me fairly not like this that whatever they wanted. The only reason that I didn’t go back to Iran was this. 

How did you feel? Did you fear going back? 
Yes. I was afraid and nervous. I was phoned and in five minutes, I decided to stay here in England because I came here by ship and the ship was in England uh… better to say I was in the UK, in the waters of Scotland. I had a total of 24 hours to make my decision to continue my trip …

After you had a phone call … 
Yes. When I continued my trip, it meant that in the first harbor I had to stop and was taken to Iran. I had no other choice. For instance, I could say I went to Germany or Denmark where my sister lives. It was much easier for me to live there rather than to come here. I just made my decision just in five minutes. 

Uhh… you said that you had come to England because of your work and you had been called. As a result of the call, you decided to talk to the UK government. 
Yup. In 2001, I was in England. If I wanted to live here and had an immigration plan, I applied for it and didn’t do it for seven years after that. 

When you immigrated, how old were you?  
I sought asylum in 2008 and I think I was 31 or 32. Yes, I was 32 years old.  

Now… uhhh … ahh… There are more questions about uhh… what your strategies are for passing immigration experiences. But you are still going through it and you described that they weren’t clear to you and hopeful. Could you tell us about your dreams before you came here, applied for immigration and were free? Do you remember them? 
I am a person who hates being inactive. I always wanted to progress in science, business and my position. Actually, I did not have a financial problem however I left my country, I had some other crucial problems as I proved to the government of England. When I came to this country, I brought many things here rather than taking them. The day they opened my case, there was a signature that I didn’t ask for one pence from the government. Even though I had to receive some aid, I haven’t received any aid from the government here. I paid the expenses of all my defense attorneys. I changed some attorneys, and I paid for them. If I didn’t face problems, I would never have requested immigration here in 100 years. I had a very successful life. I didn’t have any troubles financially or socially. 

What were your dreams before these incidents? 
Just a normal life. I wanted to get married. Nothing special. Whatever I wanted, I had. In my country, everyone wanted to have a good car and a house. My family’s financial situation is magnificent and I didn’t even need to work. However, from the beginning of the time I was studying at university, I wanted to have everything from myself, not my father. At that time, people wanted to have a motorbike, but I had the best car in Iran and two houses. But I came here and sold them and finally nothing. 

Uhh… Could you tell me what dreams you have? 
Now nothing. When I don’t know about my future, what dream can I have? In fact, nothing. The most important thing I want now is to find a way and meet my family. 

Do you dream of meeting your family?
Yup. Or I can find a way from this bog. It is better to say that the bog the UK Government made for me. 

Uhh… hmmm… so what is your dream? 
My dream is to meet my family because the situation I have here is very hard. I cannot go out and cannot bring them here. All my struggles are to find a way and meet my family and get out of the bog that was made for me

I am very thankful to you because of your time. And I am hopeful that you reach your dreams. 
Thank you. 

If you have questions, you can ask me. 
No, thank you for your time and for listening to my speeches. 

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.