Eritrean refugee who took his own life was 'stressed' about UK asylum status

Eritrean refugee who took his own life was 'stressed' about UK asylum status
3 min read
05 January, 2022
Eritrean asylum seeker Alexander Tekle took his own life in December 2017 because he was 'stressed' about his immigration status and traumatised by the suicide of his close friend, an inquest has heard.
The probe into Alex's death is the fourth inquest to be heard into the suicides of four Eritreans in the UK within a 16-month period [Getty-file photo]

An Eritrean asylum seeker who took his own life in 2017 was traumatised by the recent suicide of his close friend and worried about his immigration status in the UK, an inquest has heard. 

Alexander Tekle was a "loveable" and "friendly" person, according to his father, who was smuggled into UK in 2016 via a refrigerated lorry after spending around a year at the Calais Jungle camp. 

Alex took his own life on 6 December 2017, just after his 18th birthday. The inquest heard that the young man, who was assaulted while living in adult UK Home Office accommodation, had been struggling with alcoholism and mental health issues before he died. 

"When I think of Alex and the hopes for his life in the UK and know he has gone, I feel deeply sad," said Alex's father Tecle Sium Tesfamichel in a statement. 

"I hope the inquest will help me understand what happened leading up to Alex's death and if any lessons can be learnt to help protect this from happening to other young people."

The father said Alex wanted to be a professional cyclist and had hoped his sisters would join him in the UK, so they could go to school there. 

When Tekle first arrived in the country after trekking across the desert and staying at the Calais camp, he was put in a children's immigrant centre in Ashford, Kent, reported local media. 

However, due to a dispute over his age - as Alex had given the wrong date of birth on arrival and was unable to correct the error after months of trying - he was moved to a hostel for adult asylum seekers in London, the inquest heard. 

The Eritrean was "violently assaulted" at the adult Home Office accommodation, resulting in hospitalisation, reported The Independent. This led to Tekle leaving the facility and becoming homeless, the newspaper said. 

His girlfriend, Luul Mohammed, gave a statement to the court explaining that Alex had also been stabbed on the street and had to be taken to hospital. 

She said he developed an "alcohol problem" which resulted in him being "angry and violent" at times. 

"Alex's immigration status was uncertain and this caused him a lot of stress," Luul added. 

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The probe in Alex's death is the fourth inquest to be heard into the suicides of four Eritreans within a 16-month period. 

Alex's friend, Filmon Yemane, took his own life just weeks before Mr Tekle died, which "profoundly traumatised" him, reported The Guardian. 

It is hoped the inquests will shed light on the difficult circumstances asylum seekers face when arriving in the UK. 

"I don't really feel like I have the words to speak about the inquest today… Just deep sadness," wrote Benny Hunter, a British charity worker who developed a friendship with Alex, on social media. 

The New Arab contacted the UK Home Office, who did not respond to a request from comment. The inquest is ongoing.