Leave to remain for asylum seeker after 19 years

What is the case about?

I am writing on behalf of a 65 year old mother of two daughters. I am supporting her attempt to raise a fresh claim to remain in the Uk after 19 years of residence.  I hope you may be able to help us raise a small amount for legal fees (there is no legal aid available in these cases).  Due to the nature of her case it is best for her to remain anonymous ( I will call her Sarah) but I am happy to be contacted on her behalf. 

I am an academic and met Sarah during a research project, we have since become friends and I have been trying to help keep her spirits up during this uncertain time. 

Sarah is an educated lady with a postgraduate degree and experience in the tourism and public health sectors. Nevertheless she has been destitute and homeless over the last 9 years. Her mental health is now suffering and I am very worried about her wellbeing. She has gone from being gregarious and confident to being afraid and isolated.


Sarah was studying here legally in 2002 but her life was turned upside down when her husband  was killed by the army in Zimbabwe. He was a ZIPRA soldier that joined the army post-independence and were known to be disloyal to the Mugabe government (against the views of the army commanders who were strong supporters of Zanu PF).  Soldiers who opposed Mugabe were spied upon, tortured and killed for standing up the the army's human rights violations. 

During her husband's burial Sarah became involved in a public altercation with army officials, accusing them of killing her husband, hiding hid body and preventing his burial in the family plot.

Having returned to Zimbabwe, Sarah soon realised her movements were being tracked and her own life was in immediate danger. Whilst attending her uncle's funeral, heavily armed army officers twice visited her home (once in the middle of the night). She received a phone call telling her to run. She then fled for her life. Sarah was fortunate enough to be smuggled out of the country dressed in airline uniform by former airline colleagues. She has never returned.  She described to me the terror of waiting for the plane to leave Zimbabwean airspace ('what seemed like hours in the sky just waiting for the plan to be routed back to Harare').

 Whilst her student leave continued she studied for a Masters degree and only when her leave expired was she advised to claim asylum in 2010. 

Unfortunately Sarah's asylum case was refused and she has been in limbo ever since, unable to work or complete her studies. She has received no state support during this time but has volunteered with several local charities and tried to contribute to community life, supporting other vulnerable people in the Midlands.


Although the Home Office regarded Sarah's asylum case as not credible, I wholeheartedly believe Sarah's story. It clearly pains her to revisit these traumatic events. Her husband's death was very difficult for her to recount. The refusal of army personnel to acknowledge his death, to allow her to see his body or to arrange his burial were deeply upsetting.  The wall of silence Sarah encountered led her to endanger her own life. There is no doubt in my mind that her flight from Zimbabwe arose from terror of the consequences. Something that most of us can barely imagine. Had she not been genuine she would have returned long ago - instead she has given up everything (including a promising career) because of her fear that if she returns she will be killed. Recent news informs us that the situation in Zimbabwe remains extremely unstable. Violence is commonplace and safe return is not an option.

How can you help?

We are desperately trying to raise funds to bring a fresh claim. This will enable her to live lawfully in the UK, to access state support, to work and study and, most importantly, to regain her self-esteem and confidence. Her only income is £10 per month from a local charity. Her clothes and food come from Shareware/food banks. 

We are trying to raise £3000 for further submissions, including a psychological assessment and expert evidence. 

There is no other route available to us. All Sarah's personal funds were used years ago and she has had no income for over a decade.

A word from Sarah:

"My life is at the lowest point because I rely on tinned fruit from charities and food banks. I am unable to buy even the cheapest fresh vegetables and fruit. I am worried about my health and mental state and where I will sleep if my host tells me to leave.  Thank you for reading my story, I am very grateful. Please share the link if you cannot afford to donate - every little bit will help me to ask the Home Office to reconsider"


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Helen O'Nions 
Nottingham, East Midlands, United Kingdom
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