Miki's story

Some people may find the topics discussed in this article triggering. This article reflects people’s stories and the hardships they have faced. If you are an LGBTQI+ person seeking asylum and would like to access emotional support please contact us.

I am a gay man, from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is homophobic, and LGBTQI+ people are not supported. It is difficult for LGBTQI+ people to find jobs in Azerbaijan. We are targeted and constantly verbally and physically abused. Many LGBTI+ people are killed. There is nowhere safe to live. In schools, the workplace, in the community, on the street LGBTQI+ people are attacked everywhere. They are beaten up openly, their money, phone and other belongings are stolen from them. They are in danger and in fear day and night. It is very unsafe to live openly as a gay man in Azerbaijan. 

There is no legal protection, there is no culture of LGBTQI+ rights, or support. There is no safe, organised community. There are some gay apps available, but no-one really uses them, because you are so scared of anyone finding out. Nobody posts any pictures of themselves. It’s so stressful and scary, and when you meet up in person, it’s terrifying. A lot of the profiles on the apps are fake. The police pose as gay men, and then blackmail you, beat you up, and threaten to expose you to your family. If you are attacked, and report it to the police, they blame you. They can arrest you – they plant cocaine on you and arrest you for that. Police try to bribe you, ask for money, and if you don’t pay, they send photos to your family. 

When my family found out, they were ashamed of me. They disowned me. I have five brothers. One kept threatening to kill me. He’d already been in jail, and I knew his threats were serious. I was not safe, so I fled to Moscow, and then the UK. 

I knew I wanted to stay in the UK, but I didn’t have any idea at all about how to go about it. I didn’t know anything about asylum.

I arrived in the UK in July 2020, with a citizen work visa valid for six months. I worked as a fruit picker on a farm in a small town on the south coast. 

While I was working on the farm, I met a guy. I had never been with a man before. It’s just too difficult, dangerous and scary to meet men in Azerbaijan. Even though I was in the UK now, I was still nervous. I didn’t even want to walk with him in public, because in Azerbaijan everyone wants to know your business. They ask questions about everything. People are very suspicious of you. Even though I was now in the UK, I still didn’t want to be seen in public with a gay man. 

But he slowly made me feel more comfortable, and I started to feel better about myself. He was Lithuanian, and we could speak together in Russian. This made me feel at ease, and I could talk with him freely.  

My life was getting better. I enjoyed working on the farm and I knew I wanted to stay in the UK, but I didn’t have any idea at all about how to go about it. I didn’t know anything about asylum. I did some research and looked for lots of different ways to stay, but my visa was only valid for six months and I was unsure if I could extend it.  

Yet I knew I couldn’t go back to Azerbaijan because of so many problems with my family, and because I felt so unsafe there as a gay man. 

My partner offered to support me. We lived together and we started the European Union Settlement application. We got all our documents together, attended appointments, and got quite a long way into the process. But then I started to have doubts. I visited London a few times and realised I wanted to explore the UK a bit more. I was confused about how to proceed and began to wonder what it is that will make me happy.  

I finished working on the farm but was still living with this guy. Yet he had changed from the man I met; he was becoming quite difficult. The relationship had become very negative for me, and I decided to end it. It was a scary time; I didn’t have anywhere to go, and nowhere to live. 

In December 2020 I claimed asylum. I was sent to a hotel. Even though I was pleased to have some accommodation, it was still very stressful for me. I just sat in my room all the time. It was very, very lonely.  

I first contacted Rainbow Migration in December 2021. I spoke to Stuart, one of the Support Workers; he was so nice and told me not to worry. He said Rainbow Migration would find me a lawyer. The lawyer was excellent, she explained the whole process so clearly. It was a real relief for me. 

I also had a Support Worker at Micro Rainbow; they could speak Russian, which I am more comfortable in than English; it really helped me to talk about my situation. 

I was in the hotel for months. It was a very difficult time. This was during the COVID lockdowns, so I couldn’t do anything or go anywhere. The staff were horrible. They were rude, unhelpful, and discriminated against migrants. The food was so bad we couldn’t eat it, so we protested. It worked, and the quality of the food slightly improved, but they still treated us all terribly. 

Eventually the Home Office moved me to accommodation in a town near Manchester. I was in a big house on my own. It was so lonely. I just sat in this big empty house by myself all day. I would go for walks and try and fill my time, but I always felt terrible. I was alone. There is no LGBTQI+ community there that I felt I could be a part of. It was also so difficult living on £38 a week. I couldn’t afford to do anything or go anywhere. I was just drinking and smoking all the time. I tried volunteering, to give myself some purpose and feel like I belonged to the local community, but it didn’t really work. 

I was in that house for eight months. I was so depressed, always in a low mood. I didn’t know what to do. I went to the GP, and they gave me some anti-depressant medication. But I still felt awful. I was having nightmares every night.  

The GP referred me to a crisis team, but I couldn’t afford the train ticket from the town to Manchester and back. Eventually I spoke to Migrant Help. By this time, I was in a deep depression. Migrant Help had to send an ambulance and the police to my place. Migrant Help made sure I spoke to someone every day. 

Being supported by Rainbow Migration made me realise that there really are some people in this country that do care and do want to help you. No matter your religion, nationality, or gender, they can be there for you. It’s amazing!”

I spoke to Laurie, a Support Worker at Rainbow Migration. We were often on the phone for over an hour. It was so nice. They were so keen to listen to me, to show that they care. They really helped me understand things. It made such a difference; it was like talking to an angel! I told them how isolated I was in that town, and they told me they could help me find more suitable accommodation. Within a week they found me a place to move to in London. I was relieved, and so happy! They understood that accommodation for LGBTQI+ migrants is particularly important because we may not be safe with very religious people, for example. Rainbow Migration and Micro Rainbow have both helped me get somewhere safe to live. 

Being supported by Rainbow Migration made me realise that there really are some people in this country that do care and do want to help you. No matter your religion, nationality, or gender, they can be there for you. It’s amazing! 

Once I was in London, I started going to group support sessions at Rainbow Migration twice a month. I met other people in situations like mine. It was so nice, and I really needed to meet people I could relate to after being isolated for so long. Coming to these support sessions made me realise how important organisations like Rainbow Migration are for LGBTQI+ migrants like me in the UK. I got help and advice from people who care. 

When I have had really difficult times with depression and relationships, Stuart and Laurie have been amazing. They really looked out for me, helped me stay positive and move on. I really don’t know what I’d have done without them, and what my life would look like now. When you’re down, it’s so important to know there are people out there who want to help, and their support makes life so much easier. I don’t know how I can possibly show Rainbow Migration my appreciation. They made me feel like I’m not alone.  

My life is so much better now. I’m very happy. I live in Essex, in accommodation for LGBTQI+ migrants, provided by Micro Rainbow. I feel safe and comfortable.  

I went to Pride for the first time in 2022 and it was unbelievable, an absolutely amazing experience. It was my first time doing anything like that; it felt incredible to be out in the open as a gay man, feeling so proud.  

I got granted refugee status in 2023, after waiting 2 years and 4 months. The asylum process is very difficult, and I needed lots of guidance throughout. I want to say thank you so much to Rainbow Migration for everything they’ve done for me. I couldn’t have made it without them. Their support has completely changed my life!