HEADLINE IN HELP
Why This Refugee was Driven to Suicide, After Moving to the UK
Eyob Tefera, an Ethiopian asylum seeker who was living in Swansea, took his life last week.
My name is Rachel I run a project called Bloom which welcomes and supports refugees and asylum seekers in Swansea. Eyob was referred to me about 16 months ago by someone who said he needed support.
I went to meet Eyob and he explained his situation. Eyob was from Ethiopia and he was an asylum seeker who's case had been refused , the home office made him destitute.
This means they made him homeless, they stopped all financial support and told him he wasn't allowed to work. Now you tell me what do you think will happen to someone who has everything stripped away ?
"So, no-one will help me?"
He lived like this for over a year. When I met him I started taking him food, we bought him some shoes and built a friendship. Eyob had a very deep voice, he was gentle and quiet.
Eyob was always so thankful for any support he received. At this time Eyob was very much part of different communities in Swansea he was assistant coach for the Unity in Diversity team , he volunteered there, he helped us every week at foodbank packing boxes , carrying donations and was very much part of the team.
I noticed a change in Eyob when his friend was murdered , he was also a destitute asylum seeker from Ethiopia. The death hit him hard and he started to say some odd things which made me worry. Eyob's life started to crumble and he lost his place in the accomodation he was staying in he stopped going to community drop ins, stopped football , I didn't hear from him as much and he was sleeping all the time.
I was worried he was depressed and started to fear for his safety. I went with Eyob to see his GP and a mental health nurse who were extremely unhelpful. The mental health nurse wasn't supportive suggested Eyob was on drugs, this wasn't true. They refused to give him a mental health assessment and said it was his situation making him depressed and they couldn't change that. I sat in that doctors room holding my tears back and when we got outside he looked at me and said "so they won't help me?".
I then called crisis teams, homeless projects and noone offered any help or advice.
His life continued to unravel he stayed with friends and then a hostel where he couldn't sleep.
Friends of an asylum seeker gather to remember him at a vigil held in Swansea Marina. (Image: South Wales Evening Post)
Two weeks ago he called me from hospital he had tried to end his life , I was stunned to be told that they stitched him up and dropped him back in town with nowhere to sleep that night. What did they think would happen? My parents gave him a bed while we tried to sort out something more permanent, he slept most of the time. We tried to give him options for his future but looking back now I realise he had already decided he wanted to die so he wouldn't engage.
He went out Saturday to a party with friends and when he left the party that was the last time anyone saw or heard from him. I went out searching for him , I went to his favourite places , spoke to his friends but no-one had heard from him. I feared the worst and then Thursday the police called us in and told us they had found his body in the Marina.
The pain of hearing this was devastating and I also felt so angry firstly at the Home office who make people destitute which to some is a death sentence and secondly to our mental health services who failed him in his hour of need when on 2 occasions they could have intervened.
There will be an inquest into his death and and I hope people are held to account. We lost a beautiful friend, a life gone that could have achieved so much. His death could have been avoided.
I will remember the kind gentle soul who used to call me Ratch, Im sorry Eyob that you made it to the UK full of hopes to have it all ripped away, Im sorry there was no safety net to catch you. I will now fight to in your words "Bring change " for others in your situation.
Be kind people you don't know what difference it makes to others xxx
Rachel Joy Matthews, Founder, Bloom.
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