Written by Samantha Lade, DonateToday

‘You don’t own your life, someone else does’: After finding life in Saudi Arabia unbearable as a gay man, Abdullah has now found safety

‘You don’t own your life, someone else does’: After finding life in Saudi Arabia unbearable as a gay man, Abdullah has now found safety in the UK, thanks to Refugee Action 

When Abdullah was given the chance to leave the country forcing him to live his life in total secrecy for fear for his life, he leapt at it. But as his situation worsened, he found himself sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester - until Refugee Action stood up to fight his corner.

Living in Secret

In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality carries the death penalty.

For Abdullah, this meant that he lived the first twenty five years of his life hiding his true identity as a gay man every single day. 

‘Life in Saudi was difficult,’ explains Abdullah. ‘Everything is done in secret. There are so many strict rules. You feel that you don’t own your life, someone else does.’

So, when Abdullah was offered a chance to flee to a safer place, he leapt at the chance. His sister was going to the UK for her studies, and he was asked to accompany her.

Life in the UK finally offered Abdullah a glimpse of hope and sense of freedom he’d never experienced before. But yet again, everything was about to change.

Point of No Return

Upon completing her studies, his sister returned to her home-country. But for Abdullah, going back was not an option.

‘I had no place to live anymore but I didn’t want to go back,’ says Abdullah. It would be so difficult for me. So, I decided to apply for asylum. 

With no money and no place to live, his application for emergency accommodation was refused three times. At one time, the Home Office had said that Abdullah has not told them that he needed accommodation during the screening – a claim which he proved false. 

Over Christmas of 2016, Abdullah was homeless, carrying just a small bag of possessions. 

With no blanket or sleeping bag to keep him warm from the bitter cold, he slept rough for over three weeks.

‘It was horrible being on the streets,’ recalls Abdullah. ‘I would try to sleep next to a big AC unit that would give out some heat. I saw people trying to steal from other homeless people. That made me feel unsafe.’

Research has found almost half of those seeking asylum had their application for emergency support turned down – yet the vast majority (92%) were approved when this decision was challenged.

- Refugee Action

A Saving Grace

But thankfully for Abdullah, charity Refugee Action – who believe that everyone who’s had to flee their home deserves a chance to live again – stepped in to help.

After finding him a night shelter with food and sleep bags, Refugee Action then successfully challenged the Home Office’s decision to refuse Abdullah support. Abdullah was soon granted emergency accommodations as well as financial support, to get him off the streets.

Sadly though, Abdullah’s story is far from unique. 

Refugee Action research estimates those seeking asylum, with no means of support themselves, wait on average nearly two months for help.

For Abdullah, months of uncertainty and distress have now turned into positivity. He was recently granted refugee status, and soon hopes to land himself a permanent job, as well as a place studying for a business degree.

‘When another organisation put me in touch with Refugee Action, they said to me “you came to the right place”,’ finishes Abdullah. ‘I feel more positive about my future. I can work, I can do many things now.’

To find out how you can stand up for asylum and for those making dangerous journeys to seek safety, please click here.