I left the Democratic Republic of Congo because of my involvement with a dissident newspaper. (There is no freedom of the press in DRC). I had an internet cafe and they were using my machines to type. I was hosting that group in my office without knowing what the risk was.
There was an attempted coup d’état in 2004. The newspaper criticised the government that they were not ready to protect civilians, so when they published that article the government was after them. I was in the office with one of the editors when the soldiers came in and we got arrested. They took us to a private prison, no-one in my family knew where I was taken. The treatment there was really horrible. It is difficult to describe it; most of the time when I try to explain I get flashbacks about what happened. We were kept there without trial. While I was in prison my sister managed to find out where I was because she knew someone with a high profile in the army. But she had to bribe. We were told that according to the government we should have been killed. They said, ‘ We will let you go but you must not stay in the country’.
Coming to UK was not my choice. My family was doing the arrangement. I didn’t even know what documents I was travelling with or the person who organised it. I was in hiding. No one who is in fear of their life says ‘I would only like to go to such and such a country’.
I didn’t know how the legal system works in UK and when I came here. I had no idea about claiming asylum. I had very little English and finding my way to the Home Office in Liverpool for the initial interview was a nightmare. They gave me a list of solicitors, but I did not know where to start. I did not have a mobile phone, I didn’t have any money and even if I could phone it was difficult because I could not speak English.
My first application for asylum was rejected and I went through a stage when it was very difficult. I had been getting about £30 a week and a room, but this support stopped. I was not entitled to work .Then my entitlement to go to college where I had been learning English was stopped as well. I received a letter that I had to leave the country. I thought if I go back to DRC it would be the end of my life and would put the lives of other people in danger – my family and the soldier who had been bribed to let me go. I was traumatized. I was just being, not living, just walking in the street thinking about what would happen if I go back.
Somehow the Congolese community here put up some money for me to go to a private solicitor, who put in a very basic fresh claim. The solicitor did not even get an interpreter, so they made mistakes. They did not want to spend much time on my case because I did not have enough money. Then GMIAU accepted to take on my case because it had been mishandled. Some Quakers I knew helped me to get fresh evidence through a charity working in DRC, confirmation that I had really had had a contract with the newspaper.
When I was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK I was really ecstatic. I was so happy I became almost mad. I could have got a bus but I started running to get to GMIAU. I was feeling even the bus will be slow. I felt that something that had been hanging in my mind for a long time was taken away. I felt like I had been set free.
After getting leave to remain I could not wait because I am a very energetic person, I am always determined. I have goals which are set in life and I wanted to turn my life around. I went back to college and I did B.Tec. I got a high mark overall, a Distinction. While I was an asylum seeker I had gone to the Citizens’ Advice Centre to train to be an interpreter, so now I do that professionally. Now it is me going to court for other people, French speakers from other countries. After the B.Tec I went to university. I did a foundation degree in Business Management. And now I am doing my final year in Financial Management.
I describe Manchester as my home town, just as Kinshasa was in Congo. I have never seen my Mum and Dad since I left Congo so I would like to invite them. I have got a partner here and a little boy who will be one this month. If I can get a job in the banking industry, either in Britain or outside Britain…… but with the current climate in jobs I can’t promise it. Every opportunity in any part of the world, I will go for it.