A VETERAN of the British Army who has been trapped in the asylum system for more than two years has spoken out about the “disrespectful” way the UK is treating some of the most vulnerable people.

Daniel – whose name we have changed – told the Sunday National that he had been stuck in limbo waiting for a decision on his application with “no reasoning” given as to why, despite having served in the British forces for six years.

“Being forced to claim asylum here, I never expected this sort of treatment,” he said. “I never expected to be in the system this long. To experience that as a veteran, it’s worse than a slap in the face.”

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He went on: “I wasn’t expecting people looking for safety would be treated in such a disrespectful way. I thought the UK would treat the most vulnerable with dignity, especially in these difficult times. I wasn’t expecting this at all.

“It’s like it’s designed to break you, to make you feel like, give up, withdraw your application and just leave.”

As well as frustration with the bureaucracy and the “hostile environment” created by the Tory immigration system, Daniel claims to have witnessed discrimination from some Home Office contractors.

Coming from a Commonwealth nation, Daniel has a Christian background and a fluency in English that he says are often unexpected to those working with asylum seekers. As such, he says he has been witness to incidents he believes otherwise may have been hidden.

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“If I don’t speak then they just think I don’t speak English,” he said. “So they just speak without thinking that I can pick up what they’re saying.

“There has been Islamophobia directed to me and others, because they assume most migrants are from the Middle East region, so you hear a lot of Islamophobia.

“One of the things that was said to [another person within the system] – and he didn’t speak English at all – was that his religion is not welcome here. They knew he was Muslim.”

Daniel said that some people working for Mears Group, a private firm contracted by the UK Government to provide accommodation and support for asylum seekers, are not properly equipped to be dealing with vulnerable people.

He claims that threats of reports to the Home Office, which many in the system fear will impact negatively on their asylum applications, loom large and prevent people from going public with how they are truly feeling about trying to claim asylum in the UK.

“[People] feel their words mean nothing,” he said, “so who would they tell?”

Mears and the Home Office said that allegations of discrimination had been "thoroughly investigated" and no evidence of wrongdoing had been found. 

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Daniel joined the British military in 2009, drafted from the Commonwealth nation where he was born. He trained in southern England before various postings within the forces, both within and outwith the UK’s borders. Coincidentally, he served in a Scottish regiment.

He was given a medical discharge from the army in 2015 and left the UK. However, for reasons outwith his control, he was forced to return during the pandemic to claim asylum through a legal route.

That was now more than two years ago, and Daniel says the Home Office has provided “no reasoning whatsoever” as to why his case is taking so long to process.

Asked if he felt he had been treated with dignity, he said: “No, not at all. No one that I know that is within the system would say they have been treated ok.”

But his contacts within the UK and familiarity with the language and culture have allowed Daniel to find support during his time in the asylum system that others going through the process will not have. For that at least, he says he feels lucky.

Daniel said: “I say I feel lucky, I seriously do, because if you’re going through this and you don’t have support, it’s like it’s meant to break you. It causes a lot of stress in people, I’ve seen it. So I feel lucky that I have some kind of support there.”

A Home Office spokesperson said allegations of Islamophobia had been "thoroughly investigated and no evidence has been found to substantiate them".

They added: “The wellbeing and safety of those in our care is paramount. We have robust safeguarding measures and dedicated welfare teams across all asylum sites to ensure that every asylum seeker is treated with dignity and has access to the support they need.”

A Mears Group spokesperson said: “Both Mears and Police Scotland investigated these allegations and have not found any evidence to substantiate them.  

"The welfare of our service users is of the utmost importance to Mears and we have robust safeguarding measures and dedicated welfare teams in place to ensure that every asylum seeker is treated with dignity and has access to the support they need.”