David Harewood has recalled the moment that he was sectioned in 1989 and said that he was “terrified” during the ordeal.
The 54-year-old Homeland star said that he was given a large dose of sedatives and sat on by police officers after he had arrived at hospital.
Speaking to Men’s Health magazine, David said that no one told him what had happened to him or what his prognosis would be.
He said that he passed out after he was taken to hospital in north London where he “jumped out of the car” and ran inside.
David said: “I started screaming at the top of my voice.
“I don’t remember any of this, but my friends tell me that security was called.
“They came down, took one look at me – this big black man – and said, ‘No way'”.
He continued: “They called the police and then several officers turned up with riot shields and rushed me.”
They then “sat on me for hours”, he said, adding: “Doctors pumped me full of sedatives and, at one point, they asked, ‘Has he taken any drugs? Because we’ve given him enough sedatives to knock out a horse and he’s not going down’.
“I was f***ing terrified. The thoughts in my head were telling me that the demons had caught me, so I thought I was fighting for my life.”
David continued: “Physically, what was happening to me was that six policemen were sitting on me.
“But in my mind, the devils had caught me, so I was resisting.”
He added that “I’d be dead if I’d been in America, no doubt about it”.
Last year’s BBC Two documentary David Harewood: Psychosis And Me saw the actor look back on his experience of being sectioned at the age of 23.
*Read the full interview in the November issue of Men’s Health, on sale from Tuesday.
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When David* stepped into the headquarters of the Belgian Immigration Department to apply for asylum he immediately felt out of place. “I looked around and thought: ‘These people don’t speak French, they had to flee their country, they have good reasons for asking for protection. I’m going to get laughed at.’” The clerks at the welcome desk did not laugh, but they did give him “a weird look,” David says. “When they heard my accent and saw my dyed blond hair, they seemed to think: ‘What are you doing here?’”
David recounts that day last year with a flawless bruxellois accent. Born on the outskirts of Paris to parents of Congolese descent, he arrived in Belgium when he was still a toddler. He is now a slender 22-year-old with a seductive smile and big, velvety eyes of which he is rather proud. We meet close to where he lives, in Brussels’ university district, on a sunny mid-April afternoon. His outfit — black ripped skinny jeans, black polo shirt and two white wireless earbuds — is carefully chosen: David is set on a career in fashion.
In the same month that he applied for asylum, January 2019, Belgium saw 2,765 applications, mainly from Palestinians, Afghans and Syrians. Why does David, who grew up in Brussels and never set foot outside the European Union, have to ask for international protection in what he feels is his home country? Because he is at serious risk of being deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country his parents left when they were children, following their own refugee parents.
David’s mother was only seventeen when he was born. She soon separated from David’s father, who did not recognise David as his son. A few years later she left France for Brussels, where David’s father was living. The young, single mother entrusted her son to his paternal grandmother. “My mother wanted to live her life, my father was in jail by then,” David said. “But I had a happy childhood. I had a lot of cousins, uncles and aunts, I had my friends in school. I didn’t know anything about my immigration issues.”
Best estimates suggest between 100,000 and 150,000 undocumented people live in Belgium. No one seems to know how many of them are children, growing up with limited rights. “They have the right to education,” says Melanie Zonderman from the Platform for Minors in Exile, a network for migrant children’s rights, “and, like undocumented adults, the right to emergency medical services.” That is it.
In Belgium, as in other European countries, the paths to legal status are confusing and difficult to navigate, let alone for a child. They can apply for humanitarian permits to stay in Belgium under article 9bis of the Belgian Aliens Act, but whether these are granted or not depends on opaque decision-making by the Belgian Immigration Department, which does not explain its criteria for success. The process can take years, costs 358 euros for adults (it’s free for children), and in the meantime children are at risk of deportation.
David’s situation was complex. His best option seemed to be “family reunification” with a parent living legally in the country. But his mother, who suffered from mental illness and addiction, had not kept up her residence permit. His father, who was released from prison when David was about 10 years old, still had not recognised him as his son.
With David’s 18th birthday getting closer, his father finally accepted to do a DNA paternity test. When he was 16, David received a five-year permit based on “reunification” with his father. Two years later, he was informed there had been a mistake: as the child of a refugee, not a Belgian citizen, he was only eligible for a renewable one-year permit, which would become permanent after five years. David felt the blow, but told himself that he just had to hold on for a few more years.
Then he did something that blew it all: coming out. “When my father got out of prison, he soon realised I was not the son he would have wanted,” David said. “I have always been effeminate. He started making comments: ‘Why is he like this, why does he dance like a girl?’ And I thought: ‘I don’t even know you, and you want to change me… I don’t like this.’” During his adolescence David felt like he had a split personality: “At school I was extroverted, sociable and good-humoured, while at home I was silent, almost embittered.”
One day in January 2018, “I was fighting over the phone with my dad, and I just threw it in his face: ‘By the way, I’m gay!’ He hung up. I sent a group message to inform all my relatives and I started packing my things.” In the following months, David felt relieved (“I started wearing make-up at school”, he tells me). But then October came, and he had to renew his residence permit. Among the criteria was that David’s father lived with his son and had a stable income. “When the clerk at the city council asked me for my father’s pay slip, I realised my situation,” he says. “I told him I wasn’t even talking to my father anymore.” David became undocumented, yet again.
He tried applying for a permit under article 9bis, but his pro bono lawyer turned out to be not so pro bono: “He kept asking me for money.” The lack of transparent criteria also made this route risky. He went to France, his country of birth, to see if he could get papers there, but he was not eligible under French nationality laws.
Until recently, a lot of families with children were rejected for “9bis” or asylum, says Selma Benkhelifa, a well-known lawyer and activist from the Progress Lawyers Network: “The minors weren’t even mentioned in these decisions. They were literally treated like part of their parents’ luggage.” So lawyers started filing separate asylum requests for the children, arguing that reintegrating in countries they barely knew, after spending their childhood or adolescence in Belgium, would not only be impossible but would also expose them to serious risks.
On Benkhelifa’s advice, David decided to apply for asylum, based on the persecution he would face in the DRC because of his sexuality. Robin Bronlet, a colleague of Benkhelifa’s, is optimistic about David’s case. But he points out the absurdity of the rule by which children inherit the nationality of their parents. “As immigration lawyers, we must identify the risks David would be facing in case of ‘return’ to his ‘country of origin’, meaning the DRC,” he says, “even though David was born in Europe and never set foot in Africa.”
Today, undocumented children are scattered all over Belgium. Some of them make the news when they suddenly disappear from school, are detained and sometimes deported. But most, like David, keep their worries to themselves and blend in with their classmates, hoping for some miraculous solution.
None of David’s closest friends from school know that he has lost his residence permit and has applied for asylum. “If I told them, they would worry, and it would be too stressful”, he says, “and I don’t want to be pitied.” Since leaving his grandmother’s house, David has moved around a lot. He stayed with friends and even spent a few nights in a hotel when he didn’t have anywhere else to go. In September 2019, he moved into a flat with three other gay asylum seekers through Le Refuge, an organisation supporting isolated LGBTQI+ youth.
Slowed down by corona
At the end of 2019, David’s mother was arrested following an identity check, and brought to Belgium’s only immigration detention centre for women in Holsbeek. While he remains estranged from his father and grandmother, his mother accepted his homosexuality. She spent six months in detention before the coronavirus outbreak forced Belgian authorities to release half of its immigration detainees. David visited her several times. “To me, it was an extension of what I had gone through since entering the asylum system”, he says. “The human side is totally lacking. All they see in you is a sans-papiers.”
David is now eagerly awaiting his interview with asylum authorities. “Everything is slowed down by the coronavirus, but I’m really sick of waiting. I feel stuck,” he says. And yet David is making plans for his future. He wants to start a YouTube channel offering advice on makeup, fashion, wigs, and how to “boost the confidence of LGBT young people.” Now that the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, he will look for a job to save money and enrol in fashion school. “Will the asylum authorities believe me?” he wonders. “I will tell them my truth. If it’s not enough, too bad. If it’s enough, so much the better. I just want to get it over with.”
*Name has been changed to protect his identity.
This article is part of the Europe’s Dreamers series, in partnership with Lighthouse Reports and the Guardian. Check the other articles of the series here.
An open letter denouncing social restrictions on free speech and public debate, signed by more than 150 writers, academics, public intellectuals and other specialists, is sparking ample debate, although not all of it the sort its authors likely hoped for.
Published online by Harper’s magazine, “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” was signed by people as famous as author J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, and as unexpected as jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and choreographer Bill T. Jones.
As befits a manifesto, the current wave of protest and social activism is described as “a moment.” The anti-racism movement is “powerful,” demands for police reform are “overdue” and calls for wider inclusion across society is part of a “needed reckoning,” the letter declares.
But there’s a “but.”
“But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”
David Shrigley and Yinka Shonibare are among those designing limited edition face masks to raise money to support emerging artists and local museums during the pandemic.
The face masks, also created by Eddie Peake and Linder, are on sale for three weeks, with money going towards Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund.
They can be bought via a new crowdfunding campaign, launched today in partnership with Frieze, and are on sale for £35 each or £120 for all four.
More than £100,000 has already been raised already, with the crowdfunder aiming to raise a further £20,000 by June 10. The money will be used to purchase artworks that will then go into gallery collections, providing financial support to artists, technicians and art handlers, many of whom work on a freelance basis and have seen their income taken away over past weeks.
Shrigley said: “My design perhaps acknowledges that our emotions are more difficult to see when we wear a mask. The fund will provide incredible support to emerging artists at a time when the art world entirely ground to a halt, but also the technicians, the assistants, the small galleries that do so much to support younger artists in turn.”
The masks can be bought here: crowdfunder.co.uk/rapidresponsefund
God Almighty has been brought to life on the stage.
In a new play by the multi-award winning American comedy writer David Javerbaum God wears silk pyjamas and has some ‘wrath management issues’.
The writer who worked on the hugely popular comedy The Daily Show has adapted the play for a British audience incorporating topical issues like Brexit. I went to meet him at the The Vaults theater in Waterloo.
In a letter sent today (25 November), Casa stated: “Malta has been gripped by crisis from the moment the late Daphne Caruana Galizia reported on the Panama Papers. It was a scandal that exposed corporate structures reeking of money laundering and connected to secretive deals with Azerbaijan. Those involved were Prime Minister Muscat’s closest political allies.
“Keith Schembri is still his chief of staff, and Konrad Mizzi, is still a cabinet minister. He held portfolios from Health to Energy and now Tourism.
“Joseph Muscat defended them through the Panama Papers, through revelation after revelation, as the web of corruption continued to be exposed. Daphne Caruana Galizia was considered to be Joseph Muscat’s most vociferous critic, but when she was assassinated by a car bomb on the 16th October 2017, not a shred of political responsibility was shouldered.
“The situation today is degenerating into unprecedented desperation.
“The arrest of Yorgen Fenech was supposed to bring us closer to justice, but Muscat’s interference poses a nauseating predicament that is rapidly further eroding trust in the institutions of the State. Yorgen Fenech, the chief murder suspect and owner of a Dubai company linked to Schembri and Mizzi’s Panamanian companies, was arrested trying to flee Malta on his luxury yacht.
“Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri are implicated in serious crimes. With each passing day it is becoming all the more clear that Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered so as to prevent her from exposing these very same crimes.
“Joseph Muscat’s incessant protection of Schembri and Mizzi to this day has inevitably rendered him complicit in their actions.
“To add insult to injury, members of Muscat’s cabinet are being questioned by the police in relation to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Instead of resigning, Muscat has increased his role in this investigation.
“While the police commissioner is refusing to comment, the prime minister is informing the public on the progress of a murder investigation that could implicate members of his cabinet and connects the chief murder suspect to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
“Joseph Muscat also has the power to recommend presidential pardons. He has already given assurances that he will recommend such a pardon to the middleman involved in setting up the assassination. Now Yorgen Fenech has also asked for a pardon. How can the prime minister decide on such matters when his political fate is intrinsically tied to those that Yorgen Fenech could expose? Given his glaringly obvious interest in the case, it is nothing short of obvious that Muscat should step aside and allow the investigation to carry on independently of undue pressure.
“The prime minister wields domineering influence on supposedly independent institutions giving him effective control. The fact that he has attached himself so forcefully to the murder investigation is seriously undermining Malta’s democratic credentials.
“Prime Minister Joseph Muscat alone is responsible for the constitutional crisis in which Malta is trapped. His resignation is imperative. The Prime Minister no longer holds the moral or political authority to represent our nation as a European country with democratic credentials.
“I am therefore calling upon you, as President of the European Council, to intervene to help safeguard Malta’s democracy and to ensure the respect of the values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty in Malta and in particular, justice and the rule of law.”