Asli was born in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in 1980. One of nine siblings, her parents were of Eritrean origin.
Eritrea was a province of Ethiopia until granted independence in 1994. In 1998 war broke out between the two countries and the Ethiopian government declared that all Eritreans had to return to Eritrea.
Together with many Eritreans, Asli’s father refused to return to Eritrea. In 2000 he was arrested by government agents and forcibly deported to Eritrea, where he was taken into detention. Asli never saw him again.
Asli's mother was captured and tortured and told that she would be deported to Eritrea with the family. Fearing for their safety, her mother split her children up and sent them to different places. Asli and four of her sisters were sent to their grandmother in a small Ethiopian village. Their grandmother decided to take them across the border to neighbouring Djibouti thinking they would be safer there.
Asli’s grandmother died soon after they arrived in Djibouti, leaving Asli in charge of her younger sisters. Without any source of income, she was forced to work for a local police officer who sexually exploited her.
After remaining in Djibouti for three years, Asli managed to make contact with her father’s business partner in Ethiopia through her local church in Djibouti. She was informed that her mother had left Ethiopia for the UK with some of her sisters. In September 2003, arrangements were made with an agent for Asli and two of the four sisters that were in Djibouti to travel to the UK to join their mother. The girls were given false passports.
Asli waited five years and four months for her claim to be decided.
Whilst boarding a train to the UK from Belgium, the three sisters’ false documents were seized and Asli and her sisters were arrested. She was detained in a camp for asylum seekers for three months while the Belgian authorities attempted to find their mother.
In December 2003, with the assistance of an agent, the three girls arrived in the UK. Speaking little English, and without any access to legal advice, Asli had no idea what to do and signed documents that she did not understand.
She was reuninted with her mother and her two sisters who had fled to the UK earlier, all of whom had got asylum following a temporary amnesty granted by the government in October 2003.
Asli’s application and that of her two sisters were, however, refused. They had arrived two months too late to satisfy the requirements of the amnesty.
Asli waited five years and four months for her claim to be decided. During that time her claim for financial support was refused and she was not entitled to any benefits or grants. She was destitute.
She spent her time volunteering for WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together)http://www.wast.org.uk/ and campaigning to raise awareness of women’s experiences of the asylum process.
On 27 April 2009 she was finally granted refugee status.
She is now trying to find a job and to locate four siblings she has not seen or heard from for nearly 10 years.
Everyone has the right to seek asylum. The Testimony Project believes that those seeking refuge in our country should have the right to dignified, humane and fair treatment that respects their human rights, protects their physical and mental wellbeing, and that follows a fair and efficient process. Deliberate destitution, violent deportation, the splitting of families, and dehumanising detention run counter to the original spirit of asylum and should cease immediately. Please, hear our voice.