TC was deported from Japan after seven months spent in a detention cell. They faced leaving their loved ones and career behind, as well as the prospect of having nowhere to live on arrival to the UK. Prisoners Abroad supported TC through their detention and, following their deportation, were able to assist with accommodation, a job and much-needed healthcare.

A life filled with friends, a family and a career that I had spent fourteen years building in Japan, suddenly came crashing down last year after a drunken altercation that resulted in me being locked up in a tiny two-metre by two-metre concrete detention cell.

What I was initially told would be a stay of a matter of days, astonishingly stretched out to a period of over seven months.

The Japanese justice system is extremely harsh. Everybody including Japanese and non-Japanese alike, are treated as guilty before being proven innocent, with a fight to prove innocence resulting in a longer period of incarceration, and therefore a full admission of guilt being the easiest way out.

You can imagine how, with one single day being locked up in that cell, with no chance for exercise outside due to COVID, cold food, a tiny cold-water basin and single bar of soap to wash your hair and body inside and having no idea of the exact time being hard enough in itself, how traumatic over half a year of that experience could be.

But as the days and weeks and months dragged on, it became clear that unlike the other Japanese inmates, I was in the unique dilemma where, despite all the time I had spent living in Japan and having family there, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was very likely to receive a suspended sentence that would result in deportation, forcing me to leave everything I had built and everyone I loved behind.

This was hard enough in itself to come to terms with, but was even harder still as such a verdict would essentially leave me with nowhere to live back in England, since my parents had passed away when I was a kid and I had no way to find my old friends from middle school, nor expected that even if I did, that they should even want to help me out since I hadn’t seen them for over twenty years!

During my time in the cell, I started to run through various situations in my mind of how I could survive taking a small suitcase of belongings with me, with some of them being romantic but admittedly unfeasible, such as working on a fishing boat (perhaps Chinese or Russian) until my sentence was spent and I could return to Japan, and others just simply dangerous (if the fishing boat idea wasn’t dangerous enough), such as working in a sweat shop in a neighbouring south-east Asian country to make ends meet. Ultimately it became clear that I was just playing with impossible fantasies and that whichever way you cut it, all things being said and done, I was likely to have little control over my situation and that in all likelihood, I would simply end up penniless and homeless.

It was while I was struggling with this realization that I found my home country really stepped in and shone out as a beacon of hope in terms of the support that they provided while I was in prison.

First of all, the British Embassy continuously forwarded me books sent from Prisoners Abroad that were invaluable in giving me something to do, and letters that really made me feel someone was thinking about me. This moved me immensely and really made me appreciate the fact that I was from England, which I imagined was the only country to take such good care of its expats in times of trouble.

But there was yet another British organization that reached out to me, giving me a glimpse of a better future and even further cemented my resolve to work with them and try and make it back to the UK.

I am of course, talking about the UK-registered human rights and welfare charity Prisoners Abroad. Please allow me to spend some time telling you about how much Prisoners Abroad has done to change my life during these past few months, guiding me through the rivers of uncertainty and helping me to get settled into a completely unfamiliar life back in England.

Upon our first point of contact, Prisoners Abroad sent me books and pamphlets in prison. They were not just extremely useful as extra reading material to pass the time and give insights into how to stay fit and healthy in prison, but through the success stories of other people that they had helped also gave me an actual sense of hope that it really was possible to make a new life for myself back in England.

Prisoners Abroad presented a completely solid action plan upon returning to England that involved support with housing, finance, health, employment and training and emotional needs.

And in a short period of time since I have been back, they have met these aims every step of the way.

When I first landed in the UK, I was immediately placed into emergency accommodation as a temporary measure until I established financial support and then moved on to a housing provider and began looking for work. During the short initial hiatus that inevitably occurred before I could receive financial support, they not only provided food and living essentials that kept me well afloat, but even gave me a telephone that would become my lifeline and an essential means to start looking for work, which they also provided guidance and support with.

Amazingly, through their connections and resources they were even able to arrange for me to get a suit that helped me secure a job that I love now in London’s West End.

Had I been left alone when I first came to London back in April, I cannot imagine how this could have otherwise been possible.

As I mentioned earlier, the support provided extended beyond housing, financial and employment needs to include help with health and emotional issues as well.

While in prison, I had been diagnosed with hepatitis C, and of course was not given any medical treatment for it there. But coming back to England, with the help of Prisoners Abroad, I was referred to a GP with Camden Health Improvement Practice and quickly began receiving medication to the point that now, after just a few months, I have been cured of the disease. Stress management and counselling were also offered since I had very real PTSD as a result of being locked up in that tiny prison cell and remains always available if ever I need it.

All of the help that I have listed above has been absolutely massive in not only getting me on my feet, but setting me up with a new life with financial stability and good health care.

But it cannot be overstated enough, how beneficial it was just to have somebody to talk to, which the Senior Resettlement Officer who took care of me kindly did and still does, with regular check-ups and email communication.

Group meetings were also arranged with other people who with the help of Prisoners Abroad had returned to the UK and were in the same situation as me. We kept the details of our incarceration private, but this was similarly useful in helping me feel that I was not alone during those first few months, and we could share the new things that we had learned and knowledge we had gained living in London.

While the support has been incredible, it is worth mentioning that the kindness was kept professional and even-tempered, in tune with preparing us for reality so that we were always given the very necessary and unfiltered truth that it would be up to us individually, to rise up to the challenges ahead and meet the organization at least halfway through our own efforts.

This was of course, the best thing that we needed for entering into the world of work, where we would be expected to take on even greater responsibilities in the future.

Staying positive and thankful, remembering where I have come from and being honest and proactive has allowed me to get the most out of the support offered, which has changed my life immeasurably.

I am indebted and forever grateful for the help that Prisoners Abroad has given me.

Offering a guiding hand

Prisoners Abroad supports people who return to the UK after prison; we find them somewhere to stay, provide grants for food and travel, and help them take the vital steps to a new life.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?