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Aaden first came to the UK as a minor accompanied by an agent, seeking asylum. He had an uncle in the UK but before he could live with him he was placed in a house together with other underage kids in Kent for a few months. Having left everything behind in Somalia, the first few months were very difficult for him. He recalls not being a ‘good Muslim’, doing ‘bad stuff’ and forgetting himself. Eventually he decided to find back to his faith and started to attend different mosques and talks. Being a good footballer Aaden soon started playing football with a few people he met at a mosque.

Aaden was moving frequently and changing jobs often. He worked in a factory house, as kitchen porter, cleaner and security guard. The football gave him certain stability when other things in his life felt precarious. Eventually he went to Kenya where he got married to a woman who lived in Dubai and they had a child together. Aaden knew that he would soon be eligible to apply for British citizenship. He returned to the UK and kept busy with gym and playing football until it was time to apply for naturalisation. He was excited as this meant that he would be able to reunite with his wife and daughter, his Somali travel card did not allow him to travel widely between the UK and Dubai. After months of waiting and becoming impatient with the drawn out naturalisation process, Aaden contacted his MP to speed things up. He was shocked to one day receive a letter that said his naturalisation was refused due to bad character. He had no idea why he was considered of bad character since he had never committed a crime and had a clear CRB. What hit him hardest was that the rejection of British citizenship meant that he was unable to reunite with his wife and his daughter which was the reason he sought naturalisation in the first place.

One day not long after his naturalisation application was refused he got a call from someone who said he worked for an organisation that helps people get naturalisation and wanted to meet in a hotel in central London. His name was John. Aaden, excited and thankful to finally receive help, agreed to meet John. The meeting between him and two other men was held in a hotel room filled with snacks. As soon as he sat down John informed him that he was in fact working for the MI5. Aaden got so scared that he started shaking. The MI5 asked about the people he played football with. John and his colleague ensured Aaden that if he worked for them they will be able to help him get a passport and bring his wife and daughter to the UK. They will pay him well, give him a car and proper housing, all the things he was not able to secure for himself. He asked for time to think this through. On his way out John gave him £100 and Aaden, being broke, took the money. Outside of the hotel he cried. The MI5 called his mobile the next day. Advised by a friend, Aaden said that he got a solicitor and the MI5 hung up.

Since his naturalisation refusal, Aaden has been arrested, had his house raided, has been detained at airports when traveling and experienced frequent surveillance. This has exacerbated Aaden’s mental health problems to the degree that he is unable to currently work. In the hope that he will be reunited with his family soon again, Aaden managed to get the £1000 he needed for a new naturalisation application. This was 2013 and he has still not heard back.

*All names are pseudonyms*