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United Kingdom

Daoud Ahmad Tahir Ali, 33

Refugee from Al-Fashir, the capital city of North Darfur State, Sudan, now living in Birmingham, UK

I am Darfuri, from the Zakhawa tribe, and when the war started the government supported the Arabs, they provided them with weapons. For us (the Zakhawa), and the other non-Arab tribes, this was a big problem. The government recruited militias to terrorise and kill. They destroyed our village. They destroyed the school. They destroyed all they could.

At this time I was living in Khartoum, studying at the Nilean University - Faculty of Law. I was the spokesman for the Darfur Student Association at the University. I was arrested many times because we were leading Darfuri students in protest against the government. While the war was going on I could not return to Darfur. The whole time I stayed in Khartoum, while my family was in Darfur. My parents and brother remained in Al-Fashir, but many members of my family - cousins, uncles - they fled to the camps. Even now they remain in the camps. There are many large camps still in Darfur.

I was the leader of the student association and I was being targeted by the government. So I decided to leave Sudan. I left in December 2010. First to Addis Ababa, then to Cairo, and then on to London Heathrow. When I arrived at Heathrow they asked me many questions and told me they were sending me back to Sudan. I had a student Visa, but I was not enrolled at a university. They gave me a choice, either they send me back to Sudan or Egypt, or I stay in detention. I decided to stay in detention, as even returning to Egypt was not a safe option for me.

After two weeks in the detention centre they interviewed me and I went through a screening process. They moved me to a hostel and then they sent me to Scotland. Eventually, they put me in a hotel, where I lived for six months. With the refugee status documents I was treated like a regular citizen. I had a room and they provided breakfast.

I like Scotland, but the weather is very cold. I wanted to study so I applied to Glasgow City College, Cardinal College, but they didn't accept me. I applied also to South Birmingham College and they accepted me to study Level 1 English.

I have been in Birmingham now nearly one year. And in the summer (July 2012) I was joined by my wife and 17 month old son. I want to study here and then I want to return to Darfur to help build a future there. We want to live in peace. We want justice and equality based on the same kind of citizenship as you have here. The government committed many horrible crimes. They killed innocent people and they destroyed cities. So our target remains to change the regime. Even while I am here I share ideas with our brothers in London. We try and support our people.

When I came here I didn't feel discriminated against. I was treated as a citizen. Once you have refugee status you are treated like a citizen. I have a National Insurance number and I work. My current status allows me to stay in the UK for five years. After five years I would need to renew my status. One year after renewing I would be able to apply for citizenship, but I hope we can change the Sudanese regime and I can return home before then.