I met a “Refused Asylum Seeker” from Zimbabwe whom I am calling “L” to protect his identity. L was a primary school teacher, fluent in English, who had been attacked by the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) led by Robert Mugabe.
L was desperate enough to go on hunger strike while being detained at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in protest of the removal of Zimbabweans who were being sent straight back to face Mugabe’s regime and executed on arrival.
After 39 days on hunger strike, L eventually ended up on life support, handcuffed and under guard in hospital for 9 days.
Then, after 10 years of living with no right to education, work or benefits, L was eventually granted Refugee Status. During this time he survived on food and small donations offered by the local community.
His hunger strike highlighted the injustice that was being done and led to the formation of “Medical Justice” by doctors and lawyers that exposes and challenges inadequate health provision to immigration detainees. (The mention of no medical care in the poem is in relation to this experience).