Alain Bougan (on the right in the photo) is one of our grassroots commissioners. He came to the UK from Cameroon in 2007, seeking sanctuary. He wanted to share his story here.
My name is Alain Bougan and I am from Cameroon, precisely Southern Cameroon in Central Africa. On the 27th of October 2007 in desperation I decided to flee from my country with no idea where I would end up. With the help of an agent I left looking for safety and a better life, on October 28th I arrived in the United Kingdom where I sought asylum.
Southern Cameroons is a marginalised part of Cameroon, the English speaking Cameroon. Since the Cameroon Independence in 1960, Southern Cameroons have formed a self-determination movement to seek the independence of the English speaking from La Republique – the French speaking Cameroon. Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) advocates separation from French Cameroon, and for this reason it has been declared an illegal organisation by the Cameroon government.
It’s not worth mentioning the conditions that Southern Cameroonians live in, they are deplorable, people live in abject poverty and the basic needs of children are not met. Prior to the Cameroon Independence, Southern Cameroon had some renowned companies that helped its inhabitants, such as the National Producing Marketing board a subsidiary that produces coffee and cocoa and Powercam who deal with electricity. These companies and many others were relocated to the areas of French speaking Cameroon leaving the English speaking to suffer and become street beggars.
If people in Southern Cameroon could live free and become independent I would never have left my home.
As well as forcing Southern Cameroons to live in poverty the Cameroon government embarked on a mission of arresting, imprisoning, locking in communicado and torturing the SCNC members. President Paul Biya introduced new sweeping terrorism laws in December 2014 stating: “Whoever undertakes, in whatever manner to infringe the territorial integrity of the Republic shall be punished with imprisonment for life. In time of war, or in a state of emergency or siege, the penalty shall be death.”
I was a member of the SCNC helping to distribute t-shirts and leaflets, helping to educate people about the plight of Southern Cameroonians and seek their support. After being arrested myself and locked up for 4 days I cannot describe the deadly, demeaning treatments I received at the hands of La Republique officials. It is for these reasons I fled to save my poor life. My god helped me to escape whilst I was being transported to a different prison.
Travelling to an unknown destination, I thought my life would be better than in Cameroon and my safety was paramount above all. Still reeling from the shock of escaping Cameroon my account of events was marred by my fear of returning back to Cameroon, so much so that the immigration did not believe the statement of my account. That refusal has brought me to my lowest ebb of life, to the point I began thinking it was not worth living anymore. I still live in poverty although not abject like in Cameroon, my basic needs sill cannot be met and I have found myself destitute and unable to live any kind of life.
Too much thinking of my time in prison, the suffering at the hands of the Cameroon Government, the fear of being sent back at any time led me to a mental breakdown. The very fact I was raped in prison makes me feel sick, as these evil people went unpunished and I believe this is how they have been raping innocent people with no voice.
To this day I still live in fear, as I do not know what will happen to me, the Home Office could come and take me away at any time. I have been on a number of psychiatric medications for the last 6 years and I no longer feel that my body is my own. Instead it belongs to doctors who do with it what they want, I am remotely controlled by medication. One good thing that came of this is that I was able to receive assistance to find housing from Social Services, they have been supporting me with my basic needs. I am thankful to them for housing someone who was homeless and they have supported me physically and mentally through referrals.
Living in a hostel in Salford I am unable to access education or employment, I am lonely and so I decided to do something about it and give something back to the community that has accepted me as one of their own. I began volunteering with Willow Tree Health Centre and The Angel Centre, presently I volunteer with Salford Clean Up group and was recently recognised for my hard work with a certificate signed by Rebecca Long Bailey Salford MP. I am very proud of this.
Without taking too much of your time because my story could keep you here all day – I still continue to suffer, I think a lot. It’s been almost 9 years in the UK with no hope of life and no plans for tomorrow, I continue to attend at Home Office Dallas Court Reporting Centre every 3 months – never knowing if I will return to the hostel that day, I collect my food from a foodbank and I share a home with some dangerous people who have very challenging behaviours and addictions. I hope and wish my depression does not lead me to an early grave, please put me in your prayers.
Thank you for reading my story.
Alain recently attended a national rally of the SCNC in London to commemorate Cameroon Independence Day, remember those who have lost their lives and voice their concerns to the British government.
Since writing this story Alain told us he has met more people that can help him, through this project, than he has ever met in his 9 years in Salford.