Muhammad, 32, from Iran living in France

“My situation is hopeless. The disease that I caught here in France is slowly killing me, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Muhammad* fled from Iran in 2009 when he was blacklisted by the Iranian secret services for participating in the post-election protest. France could not expel him because the Iranian authorities stated they would not grant a travel document for a forced return.  At the time of his interview, in January 2013, he had been detained three times in an immigration detention centre. He was detained twice more in February 2013, caught again on trucks trying to reach the UK. The last time he was released after the doctor certified that his mental state was incompatible with detention: his repeated periods in detention caused serious psychological deterioration.

Running from oppression
I fled my country because I actively participated to the post-election protest that followed the presidential elections in Iran in 2009. Because of that I am now on the black list established by the Iranian secret services. My life was endangered.

I arrived in France the 20th of November 2010, in Chamonix more precisely. I arrived through Italy; we crossed the border in a minibus. When I arrived in Chamonix there was a police checkout. They saw that the ID wasn’t mine because I did not look like the person in the picture. I was escorted to the police station and left two hours later with the obligation to leave the French territory.

I then went to Paris where I had a meeting with my smuggler. He was supposed to take me to England. My mother had sent him 1 500 euro for that and I had already given the smugglers 6 000 euro when I arrived in Greece. He never came to the meeting point.

I was sentenced to three years of detention and a judicial ban from the French territory for three years due to violence and theft. I wanted to find a shelter for the night and went into a building and slept in a shed. In the morning when I wanted to leave the building I was surprised by two men from security and an extremely violent fight started. Then the police came, chased me, caught me and violently beat me. I spent 25 days in the hospital.

I spent two years in the prison of “La Santé” (in Paris). When I was released I was transferred to the IDC of Vincennes. I was freed by the judicial judge after six days of detention.

I tried twelve or thirteen times to reach England, hidden in trucks’ trunks or under the axles. I was sent twice to the IDC of Coquelles.

When I was first placed in detention in the IDC of Coquelles, I was supposed to be expelled to Iran. During my stay in detention the police services contacted the consulate of Iran in France that said that they would only deliver a free pass if I accepted to go back to Iran. When I was asked about that I answered that I would never go back in my country. Sending me back was thus impossible.

The second time, I was found hidden in a truck by the police services. The administration could not send me back to Iran and decided to send me back to Belgium because the truck I was in was coming from this country.

Life in detention
In the detention centre, time is defined by boredom. I spend my time sleeping, thinking, stressing, taking pills and discussing with the other migrants. In detention migrants are united, everybody helps as much as they can. I have made friends here, mostly from Iran. I knew some already, we were living together in the migrant camp in Téteghem before we got caught.

Life in the IDC of Coquelles is less difficult than in Vincennes. Indeed, there is a lot of stealing in Vincennes and I felt a bit isolated because there are really few people from Iran compared to Coquelles.

Rock bottom
I wanted to apply for a stay document for medical reasons in France. Indeed, when I was in jail I caught a serious disease and I now need important treatment. However, I cannot apply for an administrative regularisation in France because I have a judicial ban from the French territory.

I think detention centres are good for bad people, traffickers, robbers. Me I am young, I am not a bad person, I am sick. It is not fair that I was locked up again. I know I went to jail but it was an accident, I did not wish for that to happen again. If I had had no problem in Iran I would have never come to live such a miserable life in Europe, sleeping on the streets, hiding under trucks…

When I used to live in Iran I was fascinated by France. It was a country I really liked. Today everything has changed. I cannot stay in France because I have a judicial ban from the French territory. France took my life. It is in a French jail that I caught this serious disease, which destroys me day after day. Before I came to France I was very healthy, I used to do a lot of sports. Today I am only the shadow of the person I used to be. France took my life and is now telling me “go away”.

Worst of all is that is that I cannot even apply for a stay document in France to get cured of a disease I caught in a French jail because I have a legal ban from France.

I still want to go to Great Britain to seek asylum and be with my family. Indeed, I have an aunt, an uncle, cousins and friends who live there. In France I don’t know anybody.

Three years in France
Still undocumented and unreturnable for administrative reasons

*Muhammad is a pseudonym