By Liam*

Liam spent a little over one month in a jail in Thailand, but this was enough time for it to become life-threatening. He contracted hepatitis, was jaundiced and dropped from 78 to 66 kilos. Thankfully, Liam is now back home in the UK, receiving Resettlement Support and building a new life with help from Prisoners Abroad. This is his story.

I used to go to Thailand every six months or so. I’d work in London and then go back out there whenever I could manage. It was an enjoyable way to split work and travel at first, and then I ended up building a life out there.

I have three children who live in Thailand, which makes my story so much harder to tell – that’s the saddest part of all of this.

In Thailand, I worked at a computer all day, but then started having problems with my left eye – I had developed cataracts. It became harder and harder to see and then, in 2020, my office was shut down due to Covid.

Things can get serious very quickly in Thailand, as I found out when a charge was brought against me and I was put in prison shortly after the pandemic began. At first, they put me in a cell at the police station, where there were cockroaches everywhere. The following morning, they took me to the court in handcuffs. I was in disbelief when I was told they were going to issue me with 20 days in jail. With all the delays that Covid was causing, I was terrified that my time in prison might not end even when my 20 days were up.

I was moved to a jail that held 600 Thai prisoners – it’s hard to describe how intense this was.

Everyone was in orange, but they gave me a blue shirt and my own corner because I was a foreigner. There was one guy there who seemed very unstable: he had his own small cell in the corner of the larger cell we were all in and he used to kick me in the back when I was asleep and then run off.

On one occasion he told me he was going to kill me. It really tested my mental strength.

Due to Covid I did another 17 days on top of the original 20 and in that time my weight dropped from 78 to 66 kilos because the food was so meagre. After those 37 days were up, they took me to the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) and warned me that it was full of Covid and hepatitis. There was nothing I could do with this warning.

The IDC was like an outside gymnasium with 300 people crammed like sardines into little tents. These conditions were really distressing and I remember clearly how hard it hit me to get the bad news that the authorities had somehow lost my passport. This meant I had to do another 9 days in those awful tents while a temporary passport was issued.

During the last stretch of my detention, when I was finally able to speak to the British Embassy, I was told about Prisoners Abroad. It had been difficult for Prisoners Abroad and for the embassy to make contact as I kept being moved and wasn’t supposed to have been detained for so long.

Prisoners Abroad quickly sent me an urgent grant so that I could buy food and bottled water.

When I was eventually released and deported, I arrived back in the UK in a fairly bad way health-wise. I found out how hard it was to set up access to healthcare – it doesn’t happen just like that. But my Resettlement Officer, Umme, helped me through all the steps and I managed to sign up with a GP in London. They diagnosed me with acute hepatitis and said the transmission had happened in the last three months.

They also noticed I had quite a serious problem with my liver – a common side effect of hepatitis.

With the cataracts my eyesight had got so bad I hadn’t noticed the physical signs. I had jaundice and they referred me to hospital where it took 5 days of treatment for my liver to recover enough for me to be discharged. I was told it would take a while for me to get fully better but with the right care I would be OK.

* Name has been changed.

 Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.

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