I grew up in a small village in Pakistan. In a Muslim community like mine, being gay or effeminate was not acceptable. I was persecuted and mentally tortured by everyone around me, including my family, from the age of seven until I left Pakistan. I have no happy memories of my family life and I have had no contact with my family for many years.
I came to the UK in 2011. I am currently awaiting a decision on my asylum claim.
I stayed in a refugee hostel (Initial Accommodation) for three months from the beginning of 2020. I had to share a room there with three other men. When the men found out I was gay, they taunted me and were verbally abusive. I didn’t feel safe sharing a room with these men.
I became very upset and went to see the nurse at my local GP surgery. I was crying a lot. She suggested that counselling might help and told me that the Refugee Council offered this at my hostel. I started having weekly sessions with a Refugee Council therapist.
My therapist has helped me a lot. The abuse I had suffered made me hate myself and my body. My therapist helped me see that I am what I am and that it’s natural. He helped me accept myself and see that I can be strong and confident. He was the first person to come into my life that didn’t show me any hatred. I don’t have the words to explain how much he has done for me. He has changed my life.
The refugee hostel was very crowded with families and people sharing rooms. We all shared toilet and shower facilities and ate together in the communal dining room, sharing glasses and cutlery. There were a lot of gatherings at the hostel, even after the coronavirus lockdown. I was sharing facilities with people who had Covid-19 symptoms.
The lockdown didn’t change much for me as I am scared of being abused so I usually stay in my room.
I became ill just before Easter. I had a cough and breathing difficulties. I called 111 and was told that because I didn’t have asthma and I didn’t smoke it would just clear up on its own. When my symptoms worsened I called 999 and paramedics came and checked my breathing. They said my breathing was fine and that I should stay in the hostel, but if my breathing got worse I should call 999 again.
After being sick at the hostel for five days the nurse at my local GP came and I was moved into isolation in a private room at a hotel. I have now been given medication and moved to a different hotel.
Since Naveed shared his story he has recovered from Covid-19 and continues to receive counselling at Refugee Council. His story is not easy to read. But it is an important reminder of the many obstacles people seeking asylum face. Thank you for standing with us and supporting people like Naveed to heal and begin a new life.