I remember last summer sitting out on my front wall . Camara would walk past several times a day on his way to pray. We would exchange greetings and smiles, share news and reflections on the workshops we did together. Gentle exploratory steps to build trust and friendship.
What name can I give to that moment when anothers life becomes bound up in your own?
A year later I sit on another wall. A faded red painted wall outside the Bristol Central Mosque. Camara and his friends would sit here socialising after prayers. I often waved and exchanged greetings as I passed by.
I pass by today and Camara is not there. I stop and sit on the wall. Tears come quickly. Camara is gone. Disappeared. Deported.
His full name is Koniagi Camara. He is from the Gambia. Econometrician by trade, asylum seeker by necessity.
On the 18th July he was detained while signing at Trinity police station. Many people have to sign at police stations and reporting centres around the country because of their immigration status and at any point are at risk of being detained and deported.
That evening I strapped a giant heavy suitcase on the back of my bicycle and wobbled his paperwork related to his asylum case over to the police station. He did not get to see a duty solicitor until a week after he was detained and then this duty solicitor did nothing.
I also took him a new pair of shoes as he had been on his way to get some new shoes as his old ones were damaged. That's what detention is. Ripping people out of their lives with no warning. This is violent.
We have spoken daily since his detention. His voice comes filtered through the impacts of barbed wire, air less rooms and fear. He is in Colnbrook Detention Centre with removal directions for last Saturday.
Camara's strength has been a source of inspiration for me, with much of his strength coming from his Muslim faith. Fear, anxiety, anger doesn't dominate him yet they are all present.
Despite much effort, we did not have enough time to stop his deportation. We spoke as he was in the car on the way to the airport. He was full of love for all the people who had stood by him against this injustice.
The government appears to go out of its way to create a dehumanising and traumatic system for aslyum seekers. This needs to be challenged and changed. I thought to ask what a humane and dignified asylum system would look like, yet then I think maybe we are creating it. A grassroots popular system of welcome based on solidarity and needs, and a recognition of the impact of colonialism and neocolonialism on migration.
I don't sleep much on Saturday night. His phone is switched off. At 8.30am it starts to ring. A foreign sounding ring. He is gone.