Glasgow, Scotland – Rahman Shah was born in a refugee camp in Peshawar 32 years ago and has never been to Afghanistan.
But because Pakistan does not grant citizenship to children born in camps, he had no passport for travel.
He came to Scotland to seek asylum 12 years ago by an arduous overland route.
On Wednesday, along with 23-year-old Afghan Mirwais Ahmadzai, he started a hunger strike on a Glasgow street to protest the treatment and eviction of asylum seekers by the UK Home Office and its private contractor, Serco.
Shah has been denied asylum and claims the Home Office wants to deport him to Afghanistan.
“I have never been in Afghanistan. I have never seen Afghanistan. I am, my whole life, in Pakistan,” he says, under a makeshift shelter donated by local community groups, opposite Home Office buildings in the Ibrox district.
“When I arrived in the UK I went straight to the police station. They said, ‘Show me your passport,’ but I said, ‘I have no passport, I came by truck.'”
The letter he received from Serco detailing the terms of his eviction was in English.
“I can speak [English] but I cannot write or read – I was born in a refugee camp, I could not go to college.”
Shah, who has hepatitis, is one of 330 asylum seekers in Glasgow that Serco plans to evict.
Under UK law, people claiming asylum can receive $49 a week – around half the minimum amount guaranteed to UK citizens who can claim social security benefits – and this support is withdrawn if an asylum claim is denied.
“If they cut the money and the support, what will we do?” says Shah.
Local authorities only give support in specific cases, usually where a person has a disability or medical condition. Otherwise, people rely on handouts to survive.
It is not only about Serco, it is about the process of asylum claims – they are doing this for the 300. If Afghanistan is safe, why are there still 37 countries’ armies there?
Muhammad Asif, head of Scottish Afghan Society
Shah and Ahmadzai are Pashtuns, whose ethnic heritage traces back to the region Britain and other colonial powers carved up in the 1800s.
The Scottish Afghan Society and its 2,000 members, which is run by Muhammad Asif, support the hunger strikers.
“It is not only about Serco, it is about the process of asylum claims – they are doing this for the 300,” Asif told Al Jazeera.
“If Afghanistan is safe, why are there still 37 countries’ armies there?” he said, recalling an announcement by the UK’s defence secretary, in advance of last month’s NATO summit, that a further 440 non-combat troops would be sent to Afghanistan.