Bristol - Press Articles
Disabled asylum seekers make their mark in city
A group of disabled asylum seekers in Bristol have created a painted mural in the Bear Pit.
The work has been installed in the sunken area at St James Barton Roundabout. Organisers say the mural has been done by people who are rarely heard by anyone - and they are using art to claim a voice and public space in the city.
This artwork forms part of a national research project run by UK Disabled People's Council, with funding from the Big Lottery.
Coordinator Rebecca Yeo said: "Nowhere have I come across greater hardship and injustice than that experienced by disabled asylum seekers in this country."
For more, visit www.disabilitymurals.org.uk/bristol.php.
Bristol Evening News, March 29 2012
Asylum Seekers' Unheard Voices
Disabled asylum seekers have used art to express themselves through a painted mural in Bristol. Two of them tell us about their lives and their treatment in Britain.
AHMED FROM IRAQ
People in Britain don't seem to like the disabled. I see lots of disabled people. They drink in the park, they have nowhere to live. They try to kill themselves. Every family with a mental person needs a house.
Britain says Iraq is rubbish but even in Iraq and Kurdistan people are treated better than this. My family send me money every month.
I've been in England five years and only got proper help three months ago. Now I've got a flat but it is high up and my legs are bad and climbing stairs is hard, and there's no furniture.
I waited a month for them to mend my door but if I miss one appointment they refuse me money: they say "Sorry, you're late..."
Who made me disabled? The government. Britain, America, Iraq. The governments fought. They made me disabled, They injured my leg in an explosion. I lost my brother. My mother can't talk properly now: she lost an eye and an arm in the explosion.
The Government should be helping these people. They put me into a hostel with people who abuse drugs and drink. I've never drunk alcohol in my life. Why house me with drug users?
Does this country respect disabled people? They make them sleep on the street.
In my country, when someone dies, people come and check on you. My brother died last year. Only one person cam to see me when I heard that he'd been killed. I was bleeding inside. I couldn't talk. My family say "Are there any people around you?" I say "No." My mother says "Be strong."
I've never seen such bad people as here. No one came to help me. I needed people to listen. I felt my insides going into a small hole. I needed a place to forget my pain. When I hear news about Iraq I just cry.
I'm not here to slag off the Iraqi government or British government. I can't talk properly. I don't remember how long it's been since I talked to my mum.
My brother lost his mind. He couldn't speak for five or six months because he'd been in prison in Germany. Then they sent him back to Iraq. There he was in a car crash. He was in a coma for 23 days; then he died. Germany's a big country but it broke his heart.
Lots of people sleep on the street. My inside is always crying.
I don't want money. I want my brother back.
Britain came to my country. They smashed everything, they killed people. When I came here I asked for help, but they wouldn't help me. England has lost its mind.
My key worker says, "Ahmed, you've lost your brain." It's not my brain I've lost, it's my family. I have nothing. No one visits me here.
I see buses. They travel out empty and they come back empty but the government won't give me a bus pass. Why can't I get a buss pass? The buses are empty.
My mother says, "Tell me what might help your life and I'll buy it for you." She bought me an iPhone to help me remember my appointments and remind me of my way when I forget but people just got envious because I'd got a better phone than theirs. My phone is now my best friend.
People call me names. They say I come from the jungle. They don't believe the things I say. They say I'm lying. I'm not lying. The world should be my judge. You know why they say this: it's because I'm brown and disabled. They're racist and the government doesn't do anything to help. They should be shouting, "Look after disabled people!"
MANJEET FROM AFGHANISTAN
I am originally from Kabul in Afghanistan, where people are looked down on for being disabled, and face discrimination.
Because my father was a doctor he protected me as long as he was alive.
Occasionally he would take me out, which I valued because as a disabled person I found most public places inaccessible and tended to be housebound.
My mother and brothers were different. They took me as a burden and never respected me. My mother left my father when I was a child and moved to New Delhi in India with my brothers.
After my father passed away in 2003 my uncle took me to live with my mother in India. I spent two or three years there, and was treated very badly, and with no dignity.
It was in India that I met my husband, who worked as journalist. He gave me a helping hand and took me away from the miserable life I was living, but he faced problems of his own. His work as a human rights activist meant that his own life was at risk and we came to London in 2005, staying until 2008 when he decided to return home.
Things had not improved. As soon as he resumed his work he started to be threatened and attacked. In February 2011 he went missing and I was attacked in my home. I waited for him but he didn't return or contact me.
I was attacked again for trying to find him, leaving me with no choice but to leave and go somewhere else.
Since I had been in London before, I returned there and claimed asylum on 30 March 2011.
Unfortunately I have not been treated fairly. After I claimed asylum I was not put into an accessible flat. I faced hurdles coming in and out of my house and found that the kitchen hob was too high for me to be able to cook a meal.
The authorities also put me onto weekly reporting, which was a horrible experience. In order to attend, I had to wheel my wheelchair in the most extreme weather conditions, only to report like an able-bodied asylum seeker.
I had expected to be treated fairly because I'd seen that this country takes care of its own disabled people. The same doesn't seem to be true of its immigrants.
(Photo of Ahmed at the mural opening ceremony, accompanied by the following text.)
"In my country they beat you physically; here they beat you emotionally." In March disabled asylum seekers added drawings, messages and ideas to a painted mural installed at the Bear Pit, a large roundabout in the city centre.
The artwork is part of a national project run by UK Disabled People's Council. Coordinator Rebecca Yeo says, "I've worked with disabled people in many different countries and circumstances. Nowhere have I come across greater injustice than that experienced by disabled asylum seekers in the UK. But nowhere have I met greater compassion."
One artist drew herself jumping out of a tower block at the sight of a police car. "If the police come to my house I will kill myself," she explains. "I won't stop to ask what they want; I'd rather die than be deported."