MULE: When were you released?
LB: I left Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in London on Friday 8 January. I was told by my solicitor I would be released on the Monday but I kept waiting – they said that there was too much snow: for Health and Safety reasons I couldn’t travel. Then they just gave me a train ticket to take me to Manchester. I arrived after 11pm. I stayed with friends because we have not had a house since December.
MULE: What has happened since then?
LB: At first I rested – I was so exhausted. Then I went to Refugee Action because I am entitled to housing support now my fresh claim is being processed. But NASS (National Asylum Support Service), kept turning me down. When I went to sign at Dallas Court in Salford I was told that the papers confirming my housing entitlement had been sent to Liverpool! Finally NASS gave us temporary accommodation, but in Liverpool. We eventually moved back to Manchester on Monday 8 February.
MULE: Were you aware of the campaign to support you while you were in detention?
LB: I was very aware. So many people were calling me and a woman from Yarl’s Wood Befrienders Group – which supports asylum seekers there – printed off news reports and showed me. Before that the BBC had covered the vigil held for me in Manchester. People who didn’t know I was detained started calling me. I need to thank everyone who supported me and gave me courage.
MULE: What was detention like?
LB: I was hoping to come out before Christmas because the first days were terrible. The place is not bad – they give you food. You follow a programme, always showing your IDs and under control. I realised there that you have nothing if you don’t have your freedom. I made friends in there and I communicate with other detainees still inside: some others have been released; some taken away. It is a strange place; it is so rare to find a smiling face. I saw intensive religion in there – too much. You cope because you keep hoping, but the stress has caused discolouration of my skin; made me sick.
MULE: What’s next for you?
LB: I started writing another play inside – about detention. I think that there is a lot unknown about it. I have been through it all: claimed; rejected and on vouchers; detained and now back at the start with a fresh claim. Maybe I will have to go to court; to give a witness statement again, but it will be assessed on two models: new claim and claim resolution.
MULE: How do you feel now?
LB: I feel tired but relieved. I know that I have a big battle ahead of me and that I must always consider what may happen next because I don’t want to go to that place again; I fear it. Today I was at the reporting centre and they said, you don’t need to sign – but I insisted! I do not want them to say, “she is not complying”. I do not trust what they say. But I will keep fighting until I get the good news.