Some of you may know that I have been staying in Thailand for a few months this year. Very recently I overstayed my visa by a few days by mistake. This mistake had unexpected consequences as I was first held in a cell, then in the 'Immigration Detention Centre [IDC]' in Bangkok for over 12 days; in both of which the conditions were very shocking.
Within the IDC about 120 men are crammed into a small area that can best be described as a cage. There is little food and not enough room for humane sleeping conditions. There is also a constant fear of being robbed. As tensions and stress levels are so high, this also creates an environment where physical fights and animosity become common. It was a shocking experience where I witnessed people being treated in ways that we would not treat animals in the UK, and many of them have done nothing more than make an honest mistake like myself, or have the misfortune of being born in a country such as Syria, North Korea or Yemen.
While I was in the centre waiting to come home, it was important to keep a sense of normality despite the suffering of the reality. This was only really possible with the aid and support of some of the other men also in the situation. In that environment, I was dependent on strangers I'd just met for my safety and peace of mind. I was only able to sleep much of the time because we would take turns keeping watch as we did so. Their conversation and advice helped keep my mind focused on the steps necessary to get out, as well as providing a much needed mental diversion. Without them, it would have been far more difficult experience to cope with.
One of the men that supported me during my time in the detention centre was Luis. Luis is a young guy from Colombia who also overstayed his visa. He is kind, generous and positive - despite being held in the IDC for several months. I was able to leave Thailand because I had the funds to buy myself a flight back to the UK. Without sufficient funds, the situation can become a nightmare where a person can end up spending months or years in the centre without the means to raise the money to return home.
Luis needs a final £800 towards the £4000 cost of his flight home, and I am fundraising to help him get home. Knowing he is still in that situation whilst I have now left, makes it harder for me to continue my life as normal.
All money raised will go to Luis' sponsor, who will buy his flight and enable him to make it home to his family as soon as possible.
This is a fairly personal event and not something I'm planning on sharing widely or on social media. However, I do think it's important to draw attention to Luis's situation to help him get home. Any help you can give will help make that a reality.