From 2006-2010 Norbert Mbu Mputu struggled to cope with the stresses and strains of life as a failed asylum seeker. Forced to flee his native Congo he initially lived on the streets in London before being given temporary accommodation and eventually being relocated to Newport, until his asylum application was rejected in early 2006. Dubbed a ‘sofa surfer’ by many he lived a transient life between Newport and London sleeping on friends floors and sofas, sometimes for as little as 3 hours a night, with no home, no income and no right to work and support himself in the UK. Norbert left behind a wife, 3 daughters and a young son all of whom he has not seen since arriving in the UK more than 8 years ago.
He survived these years of uncertainty by sheer determination, ingenuity and not a little luck. A kind and generous man, I hope that these images show a little of the human cost the complex asylum system has on individuals left in limbo for such long periods of time, not only to their physical circumstance but their mental condition as well.
Whilst not always a prominent issue in the media, the issue of asylum in the UK has always created a wealth of opinions and the issue has never really gone away, always lingering under the surface in the vacuum created by complex and chaotic government policy. In this vacuum individual stories are often overlooked and it was my intention with this project to bring attention back to individuals and emphasise the loneliness and sense of isolation felt by a vast number of people living in this situation in the UK today.