DON'T DEPORT ZIMBABWEAN ASYLUM SEEKERS. THEIR COUNTRY IS NOT SAFE

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In February 2019 Zimbabwean asylum seekers were detained when they went to sign. One of these was Victor Mujakachi in Sheffield (see picture). His friends launched a petition on Change Org which quickly obtained 75,000 signatures. Victor and the other detainees were released.

But the threat to Zimbabwean asylum seekers has not gone away. They were told that ‘a decision’ about their cases would be made in three months. In other words, the Home Office may decide in May to deport them to Zimbabwe. So we are launching a new petition – not just for Victor but for other Zimbabwean asylum seekers as well. We welcome the huge support for high-profile campaigners like Victor but the right to safety from persecution applies to all Zimbabwean people with opposition links who are seeking asylum.

Since the fall of Mugabe in November 2017, the UK Government has had discussions with the Zimbabwean Government about returning Zimbabwean asylum seekers to their country. While their plans have been cloaked in secrecy, the Home Office has been preparing for deportations. In early December 2018 Zimbabwean asylum seekers found themselves called into an interview at the Home Office building in Sheffield with a Zimbabwean official who was checking their identity and their Zimbabwean citizenship.  Paul Blomfield MP has now challenged one of these interviews as illegal under Home Office regulations. Then in February 2019 Zimbabwean asylum eekers were detained (the Independent recorded at least seven cases). Zimbabweans cannot feel secure after these experiences.

Meanwhile, virtually all objective observers comment that the situation in Zimbabwe has not improved since the fall of Mugabe. On 16 January 2019, the Guardian said that ‘armed soldiers were patrolling the streets of major cities as unidentified men were reported to be sweeping through poor neighbourhoods of Harare, the capital, and beating people ‘at random’. Activists, lawyers and other citizens described a wave of abductions in and around Harare.’

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice is as follows:

‘You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be construed as such, including political discussions in public places. You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. These can be unpredictable and may turn violent. The authorities have in the past used force to suppress demonstrations. It is an offence to make derogatory or insulting comments about the President or to carry material considered to be offensive to the President’s office.’

In these circumstances it is irresponsible of the Home Office to consider sending back to Zimbabwe asylum seekers with links to the Zimbabwean opposition. Such action would be contrary to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Home Office should grant Zimbabweans permission to stay in the UK while the situation is so bad in Zimbabwe. They should be able to work (and pay taxes) and play a full part in the community,

We call on Savid Javid MP, Home Secretary:

1 To abandon plans for deportations to Zimbabwe;

2. To release any Zimbabwean asylum seekers who are still in detention;

3  To refrain from any further detentions of Zimbabwean asylum seekers and from offering special facilities to Zimbabwean officials to  interview Zimbabwean asylum seekers 

4 To give urgent and favourable consideration to the asylum claims of Zimbabwean asylum seekers  in this country.