• Sybil Msezane

My journey is one of seeking safety in its multiplicity: economic safety as well as from a country that makes being a woman and a black lesbian almost a death sentence, despite having one of the most inclusive constitutions in the world.  

Being a black lesbian from South Africa, even writing about my journey to the UK as an Ambassador for International Migrants Day 2023, is a journey in unpacking how violent systems which offer protection can be, while stripping those who seek safety of their dignity and humanity.  

I moved to the UK as an economic migrant with sponsorship. I aways hold this privilege alongside the experiences of queer siblings across South Africa and other countries in Africa whose only option is to leave countries that are violent and seek safety through the asylum system. On paper, this is an inclusive safe harbour, but, in reality, it is a dehumanising journey.

My story in the UK spans over almost two decades. Back then, I was in my early twenties, and South Africa had a different bilateral relationship which enabled young South Africans to come live, work and tour the UK for up to two years. I returned as a single mother, first on the Agricultural Worker scheme. The conditions were so terrible I ended up being a whistleblower. 

However, post-Brexit pathways for economic migrants opened as the skills of migrants from beyond Europe were needed to provide services in the health and social care sector in the UK. I was fortunate to be sponsored by a county council to work with young people in residential car. I brought with me over two decades of experience from working in several countries in the global south and the US with young people.  

I am an activist, mother and world citizen. It is important to me to see people as human and equal. Migrants bring a little bit of flavour with us into the communities, and that should be celebrated.