Eyob Tefera, an Ethiopian asylum seeker who was living in Swansea, died last week.
Eyob was known to a local charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers, having been referred to
them some 16 months ago following the rejection of his asylum application. In the UK, a decision on
an asylum case – whether positive or negative – results in state support being cut off.
While those appealing the decision can reapply for support, vulnerable people are often plunged in to a
period of destitution. Delays in the Home Office’s response to applications for asylum support often
results in homelessness and dependence on charitable organisations, particularly as asylum seekers lack
the right to work.
Last year, the British Red Cross came to the aid of almost 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers (and
their dependents) who lacked access to food, housing or healthcare. Such was the case for Eyob.
Despite his precarious situation, friends spoke of his involvement in various community organizations.
From being the assistant coach for the Unity in Diversity football team to volunteering at a local
foodbank, Eyob was described as being ‘very much part of the team’.
However, the death of his friend – another destitute asylum seeker from Ethiopia – triggered a
downward spiral. Eyob lost his accommodation and had no access to benefits. Rachel Matthews, who
runs a charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Swansea and was a friend of Eyob’s, said that
his “life started to crumble”.
Eyob was unable to access suitable mental health support – even after he attempted to take his own life.
Ms Matthews said: “We walked out of the doctor’s surgery and stood in the street, and he looked at me and he said: ‘So, no-one will help me?’”
Shortly after, Eyob went missing. The police contacted Ms. Matthews days later to inform her that his
body had been recovered from the marina.
Eyob’s death is a tragedy, and one that shines a light on the lack of state support for
some of the most vulnerable in our society.
His friends have set up a fund to pay for the repatriation of his body, and to help his family pay for the funeral costs; to donate, please click here. Our thoughts are
with those who knew him.