Header collage featuring the cover of Not Safe by Danuta Reah

Not Safe

Sometimes, there is no sanctuary.

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Amir is claiming asylum from the fundamentalist regime in Iran. Apparently safe in the UK, he finds himself accused of murder.

Not Safe

Failed asylum claims

Amir Hamade is looking for a place of safety. He had fled persecution in his home country of Iran and come to the UK. He is appealing against the refusal of his asylum claim and is homeless, having to rely on the few charities that offer support to people like him.


One winter night, cold and exhausted, he is on the streets with nowhere to go. He is carrying all his possessions, and his last hope for shelter is a 40-minute walk away.

A place of safety

Then he meets a young woman who is also looking for shelter. She seems barely out of childhood, and offers him sex if he will stay with her if she has to sleep on the street. She is clearly very frightened, but Amir can’t get her to tell him what has scared her so much. Horrified by her plight, he suggests she comes to the shelter with him, even though they don’t have accommodation for women, to see if they can help.


But when they reach the shelter, she runs away. Despite the prospect of a warm place to stay, Amir decides to go after her. But the girl had good reason for her fear. Someone has killed her, and Amir is accused of murder.

Last chance

DC Tina Barraclough is part of the investigating team. Tina, once a high-flier, is suffering from undiagnosed PTSD after the events at the end of Silent Playgrounds. In the course of the investigations in Bleak Water, her risky behaviour and her growing dependence on drugs and alcohol means her career has started to unravel.

She has been working with the refugee community, and knows Amir. She knows he isn’t capable of this kind of crime, though the evidence against him is damning. Her future in policing lies in the hands of her boss, Roy Farnham, the talented but unscrupulous SIO from Night Angels, who has worked with Tina before, and has her in his sights. This case is her last chance. Can she afford to fight for Amir?

A man not worth saving

Can Tina use the knowledge she has to save a man whom many see as not worth saving? It doesn’t help that Amir seems reluctant to save himself and won’t cooperate with her.

Not Safe explores the dangerous and complex world of the men and women whose claims for asylum have been refused, but who are clinging onto a life here in the hopes that this decision may be overturned and they may find the safety they are so desperately looking for.

How I wrote Not Safe

I was approached by a publisher to write a crime novella. The subject was my choice.


I had been working for a while with the refugee community for a charity called ASSIST that had been formed to support asylum seekers whose claims had initially been turned down. Many of these people had good cases, but until their appeals were heard, they had to live with no support at all. They had to leave their accommodation and were given no money. The women in particular were vulnerable and often sexually exploited.

Origins of Not Safe

My character Amir is based on an Iranian asylum seeker who was appealing against the refusal of his case. He was a skilled engineer, and used his abilities to help anywhere he was given accommodation or support. He was also active in his support for his fellow asylum seekers. ‘Amir’ was a valuable member of any community he joined.

The young girl, the murder victim, was also based on real people I met. I was particularly involved with a young woman from Côte d’Ivoire who was here with her baby and had fled from the appalling danger and abuse that was meted out to women in the course of the civil war. I used her story in The Last Room, but aspects of her struggle are reflected in Not Safe.


Refugees and asylum seekers have a bad press in this country. They are people like the rest of us. Like us, most are honest, some are not. Like us, most are good people, some are not. In Not Safe, I hoped to give readers an insight into the lives of these people, in the context of an exciting crime story.

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