In a Liverpool limbo

Shivakuru Selvathurai and his family have been waiting for an asylum decision for four long years

It is hard to explain the day-to-day strain of waiting for a decision on an asylum application. Especially when you see on the news your country descending into civil war.

I arrived in the UK after fleeing from Sri Lanka with my wife and daughter who has severe learning difficulties. And now here we are four years later, safe for the moment but still unsure as to our fate.

If we are sent back I believe it will be the end for us. I fear for our lives but most of all I fear for my daughter Anutha as I believe she just would not be able to cope. When she and I were taken away from our village by soldiers we were sent to different internment camps. I was tortured and I believe something similar – or worse – happened to her but she has never been able to tell us as she has limited speech. The doctors here say she is suffering from post-traumatic stress. All we know is she went missing and weeks later she was dumped on the outskirts of our village, her hair cut off and her teeth broken.

We found that while she was in custody she had become doubly incontinent. We fear she may have been raped but we just don’t know. I can hardly talk about it without breaking down. It’s hard to think anyone could treat a vulnerable person like that.

When we first arrived in the UK we settled in Lambeth in south London but then we were dispersed – with two days’ notice – to Liverpool. At first it was very difficult trying to rebuild links with organisations that could help us. There is so much bureaucracy and so many processes to go through. But eventually we managed to get some help from social services. Once we sorted out a care package for Anutha, my wife and I looked for things to do and we became more and more involved in voluntary work. Both of us have received awards in recognition of our contribution – a highlight for us was collecting our medals at the year of the volunteer awards last year.

I am proud of what we have achieved – we really wanted to put something back into the community. We want to say thank you to the people of Liverpool for the help and kindness they have shown towards our daughter.

We feel settled here although now we are told we may have to move yet again. The National Asylum Support Service is changing to a new accommodation provider and we are not even sure we will be able to stay in Liverpool. This is causing worry among asylum-seeking families here.

We have tried to rebuild our lives but it is difficult not knowing what the future holds. Sometimes I would like to ask for things – like some adaptations to make our home more accessible for Anusha’s wheelchair – but because I have no status I don’t like to be seen to make a fuss or complain. I pray that we will be granted asylum – for my daughter’s sake more than anyone else’s.

We are in limbo and that is not a good place to be.

Shivakuru Selvathurai is an asylum seeker

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