"In the night time I can’t sleep, and you don’t have anyone to go to; and you don’t have anywhere to go out, and get some fresh air, and maybe have a walk or something, we are just inside, I think that really is depressing. I’ve seen other people suffering, because you think you are suffering, and then you see someone else suffering even more than you".
Luisa was being forced to work as a prostitute in Mozambique for six months before she came to the UK. In 2005 a group of men seemingly offered her the chance to come to Europe. She was allowed to choose to come to Britain. She paid the men £1000 for a passport, unaware they expected her to continue working as a prostitute in the UK. After arriving she managed to escape the people who brought her here and found work using a Portuguese passport. In June 2008 she was arrested after trying to apply for a provisional driving licence.
"In the morning, seven o’clock on a Sunday, I was arrested for forgery of passport. I had no right to be in the country, that is how I started my journey. First I was in prison. Then I was brought here [Yarl’s Wood detention centre]."
The day she was arrested, Luisa claimed asylum. Her claim was only processed after she finished her sentence and entered detention using the ‘fast track’ system. She was refused asylum in September 2008.
"My case was closed within a month, everything was done, the appeal everything it was done in such a short time and it is a nightmare. It was the fast track."
Luisa’s situation has been all the more complicated because her nationality is disputed. According to her, she was born in Mozambique but lived in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe as her Ugandan mother moved around Africa working for the United Nations. However, neither the Mozambican nor the Ugandan embassies in London recognise her as a national.
In November 2008 she was removed to Mozambique with an EU letter [a travel document issued by EU countries to facilitate movement by individuals without a valid passport] but was refused entry and forced to return to detention in the UK. After returning to Yarl’s Wood Luisa applied again for bail. Her request was denied.
At the time Luisa spoke to BID she was being held indefinitely with no prospect of either romaval or release, in a bureaucratic limbo.
"When I came to the UK I was really, really bad. I was dealing with trauma, torture, and my baby died and my husband died. Everything was awful. Then I made friends here, and they checked on me, they cared for me, I had really good relationships, and at work they really liked me, and I felt like somebody. But, when this was taken away from me, now I feel awful again
"In the night time I can’t sleep, and you don’t have anyone to go to; and you don’t have anywhere to go out, and get some fresh air, and maybe have a walk or something, we are just inside, I think that really is depressing. I’ve seen other people suffering, because you think you are suffering, and then you see someone else suffering even more than you. It is just so depressing, and this puts you down, and some people to the extent of committing suicide. And you think, ‘oh god I don’t wanna be like that’.
"I would like to stay in the UK because I have lots of friends, and I can easily stay here because I speak English. I would rather stay in England and start my own life."