Asylum seekers flee their country of origin for fear of persecution and apply for protection as refugees in a safe country. Following international agreements on human rights, the British authorities must not return asylum applicants to a place where they are likely to face torture or persecution.
However, asylum seekers in the UK live in constant fear and anxiety about their situation. Their asylum claim might take years to be resolved and during this time, they are forbidden to work. Only after 12 months, and if they are not held responsible for the delay in the decision-making, can they get permission to apply for jobs included in the ‘shortage occupation list’ published by UKBA (UK Border Agency).
Persecuted and often tortured in their home countries, asylum seekers endure the hard and often humiliating process of applying for asylum in the UK. They are forced to live totally dependent on the state with £35.52 a week, £5 per day, sometimes in the form of vouchers not redeemable for cash. Skilled individuals end up living in poverty, wasting their professional abilities and falling into depression or mental illness. Stress, sleeping disorders, low self-esteem are recurring mental symptoms spreading across nationalities, genders and age groups.
The number of applications for asylum in the UK in 2012 was 21,785 10% higher than in 2010. In the first quarter of 2013 the number was 17% higher than in the same period in 2012.
This series of portraits depict asylum seekers dressed according to their profession or skills and located where the person lives to highlight the contradiction between the potential they offer and the waste of skills under the current system.
These images were taken between 2010 and 2013. A few people got their legal right to remain in the UK after their portrait was taken.