Bernadette fled her war torn country of origin in west Africa. She lived in London for several years where she was able to work, but after filing an asylum claim, she was rehoused in another city and prevented from working. Having undergone torture in her country of origin, Bernadette has a Rule 35 report on her record, meaning a medical practitioner has deemed Bernadette’s health ‘likely to be injuriously affected’ by being detained.

I lived in London for many years, so it’s very hard to come to a new city where you know no-one and you’ve never been… The Home Office don’t care where they drop you.

They said we’re going to make sure the Home Office help you. I said okay, but then the Home Office say I have to sell all of my belongings, so I sell everything.

I sell everything I have, my phone, my computer, my clothes, everything I own, apart from one suitcase. Because they said if I have those things, they can’t help me. So I had to sell everything. And when I came here, I was so lonely. I cried everyday, I didn’t know anyone. You leave your whole family back home. You come here and live a solitary life, you don’t know anybody in a strange land. There must be something following you, looking for you, you’re running.

When you’ve been tortured – because I’m from a war country, we have Rule 35 because we were tortured before we get to this country. So you can’t be tortured again, being detained. But it still happens.

I now report every two weeks. When you go to report you still have to sit in here, and there’s a prisoner sitting there smelling of alcohol and weed and you’re moving away because we are all signing at the same place but you’re not a criminal. You can see, it’s very uncomfortable. I buy a weekly bus pass to get here but I know many people can’t pay that money. My bus pass is what I must buy, it’s what I use most my income for so I know I can get to the reporting centre.

One of the ladies that they arrested from my house, she reported every 6 months, but they still come. If they want to take you… Even though I have Rule 35, I’m still looking through my window all the time. Between six o’clock until eight o’clock in the morning, that’s what time they normally come. They’ve taken… four people in my house. They went without saying bye… all of them they came to get them from the house. Then, management comes…looks at their clothes to take them and give them to a second-hand shop… they check on what is good and what is bad and the rest they put in a black bag.

For me they were just asking me… because I didn’t have any [fresh evidence] in the Home Office, but I have been in this country for 15 years now. And I’ve worked and I’ve paid taxes and I’ve come from an English colony, so if the story is right they’re supposed to give me my papers now, but they don’t, and sometimes I don’t have anything to put in [the Home Office], and the Home Office say “I’m sorry, you have to leave”. So I have to go to court, fight, and then come back and in three weeks they’ll write to me again and say “Sorry you have to go”.

You leave your whole family back home. You come here and live a solitary life, you don’t know anybody in a strange land.

As well as designated Home Office buildings, reporting also takes place within police stations where the UK Visas and Immigration Agency (UKVI) administrate the reporting process over two or three days a week. This means that individuals can often feel further criminalised by being made to repeatedly enter the local police station in order to report.

As well, having a Rule 35 report on your file is intended to protect people with mental health conditions and those that have been tortured, from arrest and detainment. However, the Home Office do continue to detain people with a Rule 35, and as Bernadette’s words convey, the assurance of ‘having Rule 35’ is clearly overshadowed by the everyday fear of being detained, which is repeatedly re-embedded by witnessing those in her household and community being taken.

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