My 2-year-old son on the phone. He’s back in Liverpool where I grew up, and I’m hundreds of miles away at Heathrow Airport. He was telling me he missed me and he wanted me to come home. He asked me when we could play football again.
I’m not gone because I left him. I’m gone because I’m locked up in immigration detention, waiting to be deported to Zimbabwe. I’m not gone because I don’t love him. But I’m worried if Priti Patel’s Home Office sends me away, that’s what he and his 7-year-old sister are going to think.
Even worse – I’m worried that I’ll die before I can see them again. I have a highly aggressive form of HIV. They had to get specialists from around the world to get a regime of medication that would work for me. This government is trying to tell me I can just go find another pill in Zimbabwe.
They think I can raise my kids over FaceTime, which is stupid enough. How do they want me to raise them if I’m dead?
The Home Office is going to remind you about my mistakes, and the mistakes of others in my position. I’m not going to argue with them that I did wrong.
In 2013, I started stealing money from my job. There’s absolutely no excuse for it and I’m not looking for one – I pleaded guilty in court and did seven months inside. I worked hard there and got qualifications in hospitality, tech and first aid. I was determined to rebuild my life and make sure I never made a mistake like that again. But then I got told that because of my conviction my visa had been cancelled and I was being deported.
I won’t lie, I was shocked. I came to the UK aged 14 and lived here ever since – over half my life. I’m 31 now and I’m raising my kids down the road from where I went to secondary school and sixth form college.
People say I shouldn’t have done the crime if I didn’t want to be deported, but I had no idea this could even happen. Neither did anyone else who I’m in detention with.
It’s been seven years of pain and punishment. I’ve not been allowed to work since I was convicted. No pay, no benefits. It could have driven me mad but I’ve made so much effort to keep busy and stay on the right path.
I’ve spent my days looking after my kids and my family. My sister is a single parent so I’ve been helping raise my nephew too. I’ve been helping my mum out wherever I can. I’ve been keeping busy and happy to avoid getting into trouble again.
I never ran away from the Home Office – I’ve reported to them every fortnight like clockwork for the last six years and never put another foot wrong. But they still keep saying I’m a threat to public safety. I know I made a mistake, but I’ve served my time and then some. I’ve also never done anything violent in my life – I used to run away from fights in school.
My fiancé, nephews and niece, siblings, parents, even my nan, are all here. I’ve got friends back up north that I’ve known since we were at school together. I haven’t told them what’s happening because I don’t want them to worry – I want to protect everyone I can from this.
I honestly don’t know anyone in Zimbabwe. I don’t know how to get from the airport to town. I’ll probably have to sleep on the streets. My ticket for today’s flight has thankfully been deferred, but the Home Office is still keeping me in detention and I’m hearing rumours of another mass deportation to Zimbabwe soon. I just want all this to be over and for them to let me go home.
All I’m asking for is a chance. A chance to watch my kids grow up like any parent wants to. A chance to look after my mum in her old age, to get married to my fiancé like we always planned, to keep helping my sister, to watch my friends get married and meet their kids.
I’m asking for a chance to live. What is the UK really about if our government can’t even give me that?
Pet Davies is a pseudonym to protect the author’s identity