About Refugees, By Refugees
Pictures taken in:
Photo and interview by:
Nour MF Jarrouj
“My dream now is to get my refugee status and get a house. And I be with my girlfriend. We hope to get married soon.” Asylum seeker, Immaculate (66), left Uganda after being “caught” with the woman she loved. “I am forced into marriage,” she explains, “but we used to see each other.” She was beaten and told she was cursed. “I had to run away,” she says, “I was helpless.” She came to the UK for her son’s graduation but didn’t seek asylum for “a long, long time” as she feared being sent back. “It was very bad for me,” she says, “I was getting nightmares.” Joining an African LGBT group in the UK has brought her happiness and her girlfriend is also a source of “joy always.” But while Immaculate feels “free in the heart” in the UK, she says she’s “still in the struggle” because she has to hide her relationship from the Ugandans she lives with. “I just want to be with my girlfriend… I know one day when the day will come, and we shall be together in one house.”
So can you please tell me about the type of home you live in now in London?
Umm, I live with a friend who recommended it to me temporarily. Today, I finished my my asylum cases. And I get a – yes yes, give me accommodation. I get the food from Red Cross. They supported me with that. As much for transport, if I were, I happen to move, but I don’t move on most of the day. Um, that’s it.
Is it like…He? It’s a he, he is a friend or she?
Uh, he was he is really with his mom. They house is four rooms ready. The day has grown hot, yeah, most of the time she was in bed.
OK, so you live with with him in the house?
Ehm not actually, but they live there and instructed for me to get, to give me a small room. So that I can be in that room.
Ok, Cool. Um, since you’re unemployed you cannot work, you don’t have the right to work.
The card I go to she doesn’t permit me to work.
Yeah, I know. How do you – what do you do to spend time here, like how do you spend your day? What what things do bring you happiness?
Sometimes I can I can talk to my my lovely life partner, my girlfriend.And we talk most of the time we are talking because even for her, she is not working. So we are always in it for talking. That’s how we spend my, some of my days. This.
Like you don’t…Like you were telling me that you go to church.
I go to church on Sundays. Used to go, but now we are no longer going.
Yeah, I will ask you about COVID later. But in general, tell me what you do in general. Let’s say there is no COVID. If there is no coronavirus, what do you do?
On a Sunday I go to church. Um, the week I go sometime, over the week we have to go to Red Cross to get something to eat.
Over the week they have to give me transport. Yeah, that’s how I spend my days.
And you also told me that you are a part of African LGBT group.
Yeah. How like how how often do you meet them before COVID?
We used to meet every Saturday. That’s the date, but COVID has stopped everything.
Yeah, and how do you feel being a part of African LGBT group?
That group has, it boosted me because I was almost down.Yeah, one a friend who told me. No, the friend who…I even I didn’t have a GP, then a friend directed me to the GP. When I went to the GP, I told them my story. And they took me, they told me to go to LGBT.
Wow. And how do you feel like when you go and see these people in the group?
We are always happy chatting, laughing, a lot of stories, even if you go to a club.
Yeah, we go there and dance, we drink, we dance, we chat.
That is so cool. And how how have your life been since you came to Europe and what was good, what was bad?
How was it? Before I, I went to LGBT I was depressed because thinking what happened before I came to UK. I was always thinking of that. As soon as I entered LGBT theytold me, don’t worry, you have to go and seek asylum. So I seeked asylum. That’s what I’m going on now.
OK, what has been difficult being here?
Is, um, yes, always, I had to be hiding who I am, because even these neighbors even where i am staying, they don’t know.
Oh yeah. The house that you live in?
Yeah i can’t tell that these people.
They’re from Uganda?
I can’t talk about that, I’m hiding. If I happen to…
So they think she’s your friend?
Yeah. Yes a friend, come and go and go. She comes and goes.
How do you feel that you need to still hide?
Yeah, because, you know, these people, uh, these Africans, they’re very, very, very difficult. They can say that, better get out of our house.We can hear her and what she is doing the things they call them things. How come? I have been in hiding all the time.
So let’s say you get your refugee status and then they give you right to work and you get work, you will get a place together?
Yeah, I have to. That’s what I’m crying for, for the Home Office to get to give me, what, the citizenship so that I can get a house and a be with my part, girlfriend. That’s what we are crying for, even if we are crying every day because we are in the life we are getting there. Where I am staying is not good. And even for her, we can’t be happy in such a situation. We want to get somewhere.
What has been good here? What’s been good?
Good here, because you feel free in the heart.According to what we were going through, you feel released, you feeling happy. You can know if I live alone the way, what happens to where i am staying? If I go to the G.A.Y. in Dean Street, That’s where we used to go and meet for meetings. I feel so happy that time which I spend with my girlfriend, with the other people, I feel so happy. Yeah. So good. Because we can walk and we can walk together,
And we go there and chat. Yeah. The square there. Yeah so amazing
Yeah it is. And do you have family back home? And do you miss them? How do you feel about, like, being away from your family?
I left there my children. I feel bitter whenever I think about them. But what can I do?
And are they, like, still there with the father?
There with the father some have grown up because it’s a long period. They have grown up, but still some can’t accept me.
So you don’t talk to them?
Oh, you can talk but you know, you can feel somebody. You know Africans, they never trust us. They think that whoever is doing that is a curse.
Yes, he can think that now I’m talking to her she is putting a curse, the next day if anything happens, you can think that because I should talk to a priest.
Because they’re very superstitious?
So that’s what I have. But I don’t know. You’re praying to God to be good.
Yeah. And how do you feel when they think that of you?
Yeah, I think one day they have they have to know it. They have to accept it because I have a son here, but you want to do and I was talking to him, I told him, you have to accept me as I am, because for him being here, he knows he knows who a gay is. He knows that somebody can be a gay. So he’s coming, I saw him coming, talking to me. I think even as we come to understand that somebody can be set like that can be born like that, even though you have children. But you can be, because in Africa they were forcing us to get married by force.
Of course, they forced you to get married. And they forced you to have sex with the men. Could you ever imagine yourself before going through a lot of these difficulties and challenges, like how do you feel that now you overcame, like you fought for your rights? How do you feel now?
Now I feel I feel in my heart is always happy because I’m not in the situation, which I had. I can be I can call my girlfriend, and we talk. We chat. That’s what I feel. I feel my heart is always beating with joy. I know one day, one day when the day will come and we shall be together in one house.I know it will come to pass. Yeah.
How did Corona COVID-19 affected you in your daily life?
It affected a lot. We couldn’t move.
Like what happened? What did you stop doing and how did it affect you?
Yeah, it affected me because even I couldn’t go to the, to where I was getting food. You have to first ring them and see whether they can bring you to the door. It was very difficult for the very difficult time. But now, I think we’re overcoming it slowly, slowly. But it was not easy to be in the house not moving out.
How did you feel being trapped in the house?
So bad thinking of this and that you don’t know what is going to happen. You could look outside and see that almost see this, that this has come. I think it was so terrible, so terrible. Whoever you call, here i’m here in my house am here in my house.
Did you miss her?
Oh, I missed her a lot. Every time I call, hey i am here. Now, I’m here, but she can’t cross. I’m telling you. I know. No, I think we are coming out of it.
Hopefully. Um, why did you leave your country? I know you mentioned you have a girlfriend, but I need you to. And can you describe what happened when you left your country? How did you come here?
Like, take me through your journey.
My journey, when I went when I was growing, I came to realize that I am, I am whom I am. So but my parents didn’t know that. I went to secondary. I could see, admire girls, talking to them, you know, befriending, but you couldn’t go far because you didn’t know what somebody is going to say. Then when I entered the college, this where I met a girl, who…I don’t know how I can say it, who had the same feelings like me. The college. So when we discovered it ourselves, you said the chatting, you started talking this and this until we became. We said that I love you and I love you, so I was with that girl until I leave the college, but by then the parents were so eager to see that I get married because I was growing. You know, when you are growing and you see the other, all your sisters are getting married, you are not getting married, they start getting worried. They don’t know what is happening to you? You should get somebody. So that’s how I am forced into marriage, getting married, and having children. But to one day when my father was celebrating, I continue having my meeting my girlfriend, because when you left college, she also forced into marriage, but we used to see each other.
Even when you are married?
Yeah, even when, because I used to go with her to my father’s house and we meet there. My father didn’t know. So it’s just a friend. So one day when my father was there, he was 70 years. He recently celebrated the 70 years, then I was with my friends within that process, we drank too much. I was my girlfriend was there, helping me to work, helping me to work, to sell food, blah, blah, blah. Then we drank too much and then my husband caught me with her.
That’s when the trouble came.Hmm, it was very bad. It was very bad, the man beating me, the man kicked me, then my girlfriend, even her husband was there. He called them come and see my parents. They had to come. What what is this? She said, you know, they call it a curse.
So then my father said that he was coming with that woman in my house. They were doing those things in my house. That’s why my cows were dying every day. They brought the curse in the houseI it was very bad. I had to run away. I went to so many miles, I was staying there with the friend. I left my house.
When was that?
Two thousand and five.
Yeah, so I had a son. By then, my son had come here to study master’s. During that process, he never knew that me and his father were not together, so he called us to come to his graduation. That’s how I entered.
Awe ok. And stayed here?
That’s the only chance I had to come.
And so you came for the graduation for in a normal plane like ticket – like on a plane?
Not in like a…OK. And then you just claimed asylum as a lesbian woman.
Which took me time to claim asylum. People were intimidating me that if we go to the Home Office, they wanted to detain you. You are going to pass through 18 doors. Imagine.
They tell you there’s 18 doors?
Yeah, I said now they’re going to take me back. So I had that fear for a long time. A long, long time. It was very bad for me.This was my story.
Oh, God. How do you feel that…So at that time you felt what did you feel at that time when this happened?
Because it is a big shame, you get shame from the parents, from the husband, from the children, from the community.
So they told everyone in the community?
Everybody has to know, with so many people, they said eww what?? They were doing what?
So you stayed with this college girlfriend? From college?
By then, the girlfriend, because even her husband was there, she ran into to a neighboring country. It was so it was a disaster.She had to run away- stay with a friend.
But she’s the same girl from college?
Yeah, from the college.
Oh, so you stayed for a long time?
Yeah, we were together. We were, yeah.
So even though you were both married, you were still together.
Yeah. We used to meet. Yeah.
And, do you rethink these things that happen?
They come back and sometimes I can faint.
From this trauma that happened?
And it was by 2008 when I was here, my father died and they called. They said that I am the one who killed him, you imagine.
You’re the one who killed him?
Yes, that I’m the one who killed him because I did these things.
You did not kill anyone. He died because he’s an old man.
Yeah he died in natural death.
Yeah, a natural death. How do you feel when they told you you killed your father because you’re gay?
I was crying bitterly. Even the day they buried him, they couldn’t even talk to me, I wanted to talk to one of my brother. He said that he can’t talk to me. It was a bad experience.
Does these experiences affect you to now?
Yes, they do.
They can go crazy, even, uh, I told my GP about that. I couldn’t sleep, I was getting nightmares. They started giving me medicine. And I went on medicine.
You take it every day?
Could you ever imagine before that you will be able to handle all of these things that happened because even though they happened, even though they’re still affecting you, you’re still here and here.
You’re still fighting.
I’m still in the struggle. And seeing this struggle.
You’re still in the struggle? Do you have any strategy or coping mechanism that you use when these things like go inside your head like a cassette over and over again? How do you get yourself out of that? Besides the medicine, which helps.
Yes, sometimes I call her to talk to, how do you feel? how are you? we console each other, this way, I’m always happy.
So she’s like your antidote?
Yeah, yeah, well, you got when were so down, you sees a joy, she is a joy always. So she puts you back in the mood.
She puts you back in the happy mood?
How do you feel when you look at her?
She’s so beautiful.
This is my life now.
You’re very cute together.
Um, and can you tell me what was your dream when you were in Uganda before coming here? What did you dream of?
When I was in Uganda, every time I was thinking the way, how I can come out of that cellar.What happened? How I can win the back my people, but it was very difficult. And it didn’t happen. Because all of them, they hated me total. So the friend I had was so good, I could explain to her, but, you know, some people, these people of Africa, you explain it when she was behind me she will talk other things. So the situation was not good. There’s no way it was getting out of anything. But I was just praying to be good.
So your dream when you were in Uganda was to get out of Uganda?
Yeah, yes. I just wanted to find a loophole, but God brought it.
God brought it?
People that are sort of going into neighboring countries and they had no hope.
And your dream was to win back your people?
Yeah, but this was definitely so difficult, because they hated who i am, I was trying to talk about it.
OK, can I just because I’m quoting you, like, can you say my dream was to get out of Uganda and win back my people? Can you just say this sentence?
My dream was to get out of Uganda and win my people.
Awesome thank you. Um. And can you tell me what was your strong point when you were in Uganda, what kept you going when all of this challenges happened? What was the thing that you were like, I won’t do it. I’m going to keep fighting? What was your strong point?
Strongpoint. It is very difficult because I was helpless. I had no work I to be back at my work or my work.
So they told your work?
I couldn’t stand there. I had a shop, I couldn’t stand there in the shop. How can you sell to people when they all the whole villages know what you are doing?I couldn’t, the communities they are very different.
But this is what I mean, what kept you going like? Is it like where you hopeful? Were you confident where you like you saw like the light and you just like because some people like when they’re in like those situations, they feel like, oh, I want to commit suicide, I want to take away my life or something. And there is something that always let them let them do not do it like which is like I am strong. I’m – I’m confident I won’t do that to myself. I see the hope. So what was your strong point?
Yeah, my strong point, was that I knew that one day I would move out. Out because I couldn’t go back to to marriage and couldn’t go to the family, I had to move out. That’s what I was looking for.
So you were like the strong point of view, like for you was basically…You you move on, like you continue, you continue the fight. You’re a fighter.
Yeah, I’m a fighter,of course. I don’t know know how to answer that, but.
No. OK, let me put it this way, when this happened in Uganda, why didn’t you kill yourself when you lost everyone you love? Why didn’t you kill yourself?
I couldn’t. I had a friend who was near by me, because she told me, no don’t worry. These things, maybe one day they to be over.Maybe one day you forget you will be what one day they will forget? Maybe they’ll forget, but you not forgetting that’s the thing. So I couldn’t think of I don’t know, it was just, I was just praying, even if I couldn’t even go to church, but I was praying in the house. I couldn’t to go to the church, my situation was not good.I don’t know if I did understand your question.
And do you think, no, I know what you mean, like you were hopeful? You had hope that they will change their mind.
This is what kept you going. This is what let you like have hope, like…
I hoped they’ll change.
And do you feel this is the strong point in you now as well? Like you are you still – do you still have hope now?
Yes, I still have hopeful because this one who is here, he understood to do what gay is. At first, he didn’t know.
Yeah, he knows now.
Now he knows? He knows that his mom is gay and she has a partner.
Yeah, he knows.
He knows. So far as I know he’s trying to explain more to his brother and sisters to know that I was born like that. So the message I was sending them is always to recognize me as their mom, because, like I am whom I am, can’t change.
Yeah. What is your dream now?
My dream? Is to get citizenship here, because I have already started a new life, I’m happy. I just want to be with my girlfriend who is settled, have the house, and I settle.
OK, I want you to say again, my dream is, my dream now is to get citizenship.
You mean get refugee status or citizenship status,.
OK, get my refugee status?
Be in a house with my girlfriend
Can you just say, my dream now is…
My dream now is to get my refugee status and get a house. And I be with my girlfriend. We hope to get married soon.
Um, yeah, and I really appreciate all of the questions…ehm, the answers that you’ve given me. Uh, would you like to say anything or to add anything to for people to know?
Yeah. What I would say that I have to say thank you for this country to welcome us who are, who are gay, to accept us because we are happy.We can even stand and talk. Yeah. That’s what I say.
Amazing. Thank you so much.
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.