Here we reproduce a speech given by 19-year-old Flores Sukula to a meeting in parliament on 17 October. She is an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whose family (mother, brothers and sisters) was one of the first to be made destitute under new asylum laws.
‘Our lives are very difficult now. For twelve weeks we have had all benefits taken away and, as we aren’t allowed to work, we have to survive on the charity of others. It’s inhuman and degrading. The government, they’re not treating us like people, like human beings. We’re just targets or statistics to them: but we’re not statistics, we’re real people. There aren’t really words to express how we’re feeling.
The government say their policy is fair. How can it be fair for my mum to be so depressed she’s had to go on medication, she’s crying all the time, for us to be spending sleepless nights? Is it fair for me to have missed another day of college to come here to plead for our lives when I should be studying so I can become a midwife and help British women? Is it fair to say to a mother, “How would you feel if we took your children off you?” which was said to my mum back in August? I was there but you can imagine. What kind of question is that? Is it fair? Or is it degrading?
This policy is ripping apart our family. We can’t go on like this. We’ve young kids. They need a proper diet. They need security not constant stress and misery. We can’t go on like this. We can’t go back to the Congo. We saw our mother beaten and the soldiers said they were going to come back and kill us all if we didn’t tell them where our father was. I was there. I was fifteen then. My brother Daniel was 12 years old and Destin 3 years old. We all remember it. How could we forget? But we weren’t asked to give any evidence. The Home Office never asked us anything. They just said my mother was lying. But it’s our lives. We were there. We know, if we go back our lives will be over.
But here the government wants me and my mum and brothers and sister to be homeless and live on the streets and myself my brothers and sisters may be taken into care. How can they say this to a mother? To a loving family? It’s ripping us apart. We’ve got feelings, we’re people. We should have human rights. But it doesn’t feel like it at all.
My brother Destin who’s 7 now, we’ve had reports from school of him being distant and having funny turns. He’s so stressed out. They thought he was ill but now they think it’s stress and they’re saying he’s got special needs. He’s just not the same person anymore.
My sister Benedicte is 9 months. But since August we can give her nappies and baby milk only because local people are helping us. What’s going to be her future? The answer depends on you, and people like you. Are you prepared to help us and people like us? Or do you think it’s right and civilised what’s happening to us and other families? Please think about it. We’ve got to change this Section 9 policy.’