In January 2006 Hafez was arrested at Gatwick Airport attempting to leave the country using a fake passport. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison. After serving seven months of his sentence he was then held in immigration detention for a further 14 months.
"On 29th January 2006, I decided to leave this country because I wanted to find somewhere to live rather than survive. I wasn’t living, just surviving. I decided to leave to go anywhere to apply for asylum again."
Originally from Iran, Hafez had entered the country illegally two years earlier in the back of a lorry. Once in the UK he applied for asylum on the grounds that he faced political problems back home. When his asylum application was refused, he remained in the country without authorisation.
"I am not an economic asylum (sic). If I was in Iran I had a good job, money and family around me. Now I have to live in this country without licence, work, I can’t do anything. I wanted to go to Canada. When I was illegal and I had to go to immigration centre once a month, they give me one month permission to stay, they give us permission without anything, without ID. They send us on the street they say you can support yourself, I don’t have a work permit, licence or anything, how can I support myself? They don’t care."
While in detention Hafez was refused bail four times. During his detention he tried to procure travel documents to leave the UK but was unable to provide a birth certificate.
"Every month I got pressure on my mind, every month it was like torture, because they knew I can’t get it. I didn’t have my birth certificate, but still they put the pressure on me every month, every month… I have been in prison before and I knew I couldn’t stay in prison for two years. Prison was awful, it was awful."
During his period in detention Hafez spent some of his time gaining an English language qualification. However, with few distractions available, the impact of continued detention was unremitting.
"I was in the gym two three hours a day. Because of that I didn’t have any illness. I love to read, but there wasn’t any useful books, there was a small liberty (sic). I think i read all the books in Farsi and English books. It took one month to read all the books. I studied English. I got a certificate."
"Detention is like prison, you are locked up. There is no difference between prison and detention. They people in detention are much better than prison, still you have to be inside, you are not allowed to go out, still you have to be locked down."
On Hafez's fifth attempt an immigration judge granted him bail. After leaving detention no removal order was issued, raising the question as to why he was detained in the first place and what purpose his 14-month-long detention served.
"Our situation is very complicated no one knows what to do with us. I don’t know the future."