We all sat and watched the BBC asylum day programmes, and we were a
bit shocked at the public reaction to people like us. It seemed
however bad an experience the asylum seeker had lived through, the
public here just don’t want to help them.
I experienced many terrible things back in Sierra Leone, and I know
if I am sent back I will be killed. I know that for a fact. Yet
although I am fleeing from persecution I have ended up in
detention, which seems a big injustice to me. I didn’t know it was
looked on as a crime in the western world to ask for asylum.
The worst thing about being in detention is the waiting and not
knowing how long you are going to be held. After 15 months, every
day feels the same for me – it’s as if I’m just standing still. My
mind starts playing tricks on me and it’s hard to sleep at nights,
but I’m always tired.
I think about my family back home a lot – my wife and children, my
parents, brothers and sisters. I keep wondering if they are still
alive. I had a message through the Red Cross tracing service that
our house had been burned to the ground. I’m so worried and so
down. Other people are very down too, and some of them have tried
to commit suicide.
When it gets really bad you can go to the doctor here, but all he
can do is say “you’re depressed” and give you pain killers and
The staff here at the centre are kind enough, but the system they
have to operate is very rigid. For example, you are given a £5
allowance each week, but you have to earn it by being tidy. That’s
OK, but if you are lying on your bed when they come round to mark
you for tidiness you get no points and lose your weekly allowance,
which means you can’t buy snacks for the long evenings – the
evening meal is at five and then that’s it for the night.
If they refuse my asylum application, I’m finished. I can’t go back
to Sierra Leone – too many bad things have happened to me there. I
have the scars to prove it, but no one here seems to want to
The authorities are locking up more and more asylum seekers – but
do those who took part in the BBC debate really understand what
detention is doing to people who have already been through so
Ibrahim Koroma is an asylum seeker being held at Campsfield
detention centre near Oxford.