Interview with Yeukai Taruvinga

December 7, 2008

yeukai

Photo: Suki Dhanda

Yeukai Taruvinga, 26. Opposition campaigner who fled Zimbabwe fearing reprisals from Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party

‘I didn’t want to leave my country and my family, but I had to flee when I was physically abused by the militia of the ruling Zanu-PF government for supporting and campaigning for the opposition. Within hours of arriving in the UK I was told my claim for asylum had been refused. They wanted me to produce evidence, but how could I? I asked them: “What is more important, the evidence or my life?”

‘I was held for a week, then told to report once a month to an immigration centre while my case was reviewed. Four years later, I was told that my case had been refused and I was being sent back. All I had was my handbag. They wouldn’t allow me to get anything from my home, or to contact my solicitor. I was so scared that I would be deported to Zimbabwe, where I would be imprisoned and never see my family again. Seven years later I’m still waiting on the Home Office. They say my case will be decided by 2011, but until then I cannot work or study. I am in limbo. Most of my time is spent volunteering for Women Asylum Seekers Together, a group campaigning for and empowering women asylum seekers.

‘This idea that asylum seekers get free houses, cars and mobile phones is a lie. When I first claimed asylum I was given £30 a week and a shared room in a bedsit. Now I am classified as a ‘failed’ asylum seeker, yet the government accept that it is not safe for me to return, so I am given accommodation and £35 a week in supermarket vouchers.

‘I want to pay tax, support myself and pay my way but I am not allowed. I want to work with young people and do something positive. I want young people to say: ‘”This is Yeukai. Be like her.”‘

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.

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