The Sun newspaper is not known for its sympathetic portrayal of asylum seekers—so Urginia Mauluka was a little surprised to get a call saying that it wanted to interview her about her experiences.
Urginia, who fled from her native Zimbabwe in 2002 and became a British citizen earlier this year, nevertheless agreed.
The Zimbabwean state and pro-government independence war veterans had targeted Urginia because of her role as an independent photographer documenting the violence of the regime and its supporters.
She said, “I thought my story could be documented in such a way to inform people and other asylum seekers about the reality of life for us. I thought the Sun would be responsible.”
But when she saw the printed version of the article, the mistakes it contained and the way it was presented left her “shocked” and “angry”.
The Sun printed Urginia’s story as part of a double page spread on immigration on Friday of last week, launching a new anti-immigrant campaign.
“I feel like somebody has used me for their own agenda,” Urginia told Socialist Worker.
“I had been attacked several times before June 2002 as I was a photographer who went onto the farms as well as the war veterans’ demonstrations. My life was exposed because of my job.
“I had also been arrested, detained and beaten by the police and war veterans a number of times. The pain was so intense I couldn’t cry. These occasions come back to me at times.
“My uncle decided to bring me over to Britain and I had a plane ticket in my camera bag when I was attacked by the police in June 2002—not May 2002 as claimed in the Sun.
“The Sun said that my uncle ‘moved to Britain five years ago to escape the torture’ but he had been settled here around 12 years before I arrived. And how could he invite me in 2002 if he didn’t move here until 2004?
“He has been very upset by the article.
“I am very angry that the headline over the article is ‘I’m Staying’ and the final sentence is ‘I will never go back.’ I did not say this.
“I miss home every day. Like every Zimbabwean who has been forced to move from home, I eat, breathe and live Zimbabwe. All we want to do is go home to rebuild our country, but only when it is safe for us.
“I have always said I want to return, but only when Robert Mugabe is gone as Zimbabwe’s leader.
“After that treatment from my country, now I’m getting this from the Sun.
“The article is irresponsible and full of mistakes. The Sun has printed a letter in response by me, but they edited and cut it.”
Urginia is concerned at the way her experiences were used by the newspaper, which she feels doesn’t understand what many migrants and asylum seekers have gone through.
She said, “I didn’t realise that I was going to be part of an
anti-immigrant feature. My story was next to a box on eastern European criminals.
“Asylum seekers want to work, but they aren’t allowed to. It’s hard enough to survive when you flee, leaving your family behind.
“And then you get into this immigration system going through more horrible things.
“I had to live off my uncle when I moved here, even though I was a grown woman and could have worked. I did voluntary work with the Refugee Council to feel like someone again.
“This experience shows that refugees and migrants need to be careful when they are interviewed.”