The Human Impact

Catch 22: Steven’s story of statelessness in Britain

Three years ago Steven walked into a police station in the British city of Cardiff and asked to be arrested even though he hadn’t committed any crime. When the police refused, he asked if it would help if he insulted an officer. They refused again.

Steven had hit rock bottom after a series of events had left him destitute, and he believed a police cell would be preferable to another night sleeping rough.

His predicament boils down to one fact: No country recognises him as a citizen.

“Being stateless is like being an alien. Anywhere you place me on the planet, everyone will still say, ‘You are not from here’,” he says. “Just talking about it makes me feel anxious.”

With no nationality, he has no rights to the basics most people take for granted such as healthcare, education and employment. He cannot travel, open a bank account, get a driving licence or even get married.

Steven, now 32, believes he was born in Zimbabwe, or possibly Mozambique. His mother vanished when he was 18, and he never knew his dad.

“FGM is bad, but it’s not child abuse,” says London-born victim

J

When London-born Jay was a teenager her mother suggested she join a secret women’s society in Sierra Leone. There would be a big party, new dresses and she would be treated like royalty.

“If they’d told me what the real deal was I would have probably skipped town!” she says. “I wouldn’t have got on that plane.”

Her humour masks a long struggle to come to terms with what happened during that Easter trip to her parents’ birthplace. Jay Kamara-Frederick is a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The pain is far worse than childbirth – FGM survivor

Britain has announced new measures to tackle the hidden crime of female genital mutilation making it compulsory for doctors and nurses to record FGM cases. London community worker Sarian Karim Kamara, who underwent FGM as a child in Sierra Leone, told me how it has affected her life and why midwives are on the frontline in efforts to end the brutal practice.

“I’ll never forget what happened to me. I was only 11 years old and I’m 36 now. I’ve had five children and the pain I went through on that day cannot begin to compare to any of my labour pains. It’s indescribable.

Some people might think that FGM is just a cultural practice, that it is normal or acceptable for some communities. But it is not acceptable because it causes so much physical and psychological harm and has no benefit at all.

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