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Monday, July 7

Zimbabwean exiles abandoned, left destitute


One image from the terror campaign: More

Cross-posted from LGBT asylum news also on Wardman Wire

The UK Prime Minister is currently in Japan lecturing people about doing more to oust Robert Mugabe.

At the same time his government is doing everything it can to oust the opposition to Mugabe from the UK.

This week 11,000 Zimbabwean refugees received letters asking them to return to a country described by the same government as undergoing a campaign of terror orchestrated by a military cabal. No opposition is brokered and activists are being hunted down and killed.

These refugees are being denied a right to work or any official support (because they are 'refused' to return because they are terrified and do not have 'leave to remain') so they are - officially - destitute and many are homeless and some beg to survive. This is the practice adopted by the UK government to force people to return.

It is hypocrisy of the highest order. Many poor African countries have accepted thousands more Zimbabwean refugees, in South Africa millions. Yet the fifth richest country in the world refuses basic support to the very same people it is praising in Zimbabwe - Mugabe's opposition.

The sole reason is because the UK government is beholden to a few media proprietors who propagate lies about asylum seekers to make money from populist fears.

The government has been trying for some time to forcibly send people back to Zimbabwe - there was a court case which highlighted the unreported issue this week.

Donna Covey, Chief executive of the Refugee Council said:

“The legal ping pong over the removal of Zimbabweans is now becoming farcical. The Judges in explaining their decision today said as much, making the point that the test case going through the courts is more than a year old, and based on even older evidence, while the situation in Zimbabwe is clearly deteriorating day by day.

“It’s now time for the government to drop the legal action and do the decent and sensible thing. It should give all Zimbabweans a temporary right to stay in the UK until the situation in their country improves markedly. This would allow the Zimbabweans, many of whom are well qualified, to work to support themselves and to carry on making plans for rebuilding their shattered country once the Mugabe regime falls.

“The current situation, where brave Zimbabweans who have stood up for democracy and human rights are left homeless and destitute in the UK, having been refused any protection, is a disgrace.”

Sir John Waite, co-chairman of the Independent Asylum Commission, which has just published a report on the asylum system in the UK, described the situation as a source of shame.

He said: "We heard testimony from many Zimbabwean asylum seekers and we were shocked by what we found - Zimbabweans sleeping on sofas, in parks and launderettes, reliant on charity and prevented from working."

He added: "Our nation's leaders have loudly condemned the Mugabe regime, but perhaps we should also look a little closer to home, to the thousands of Zimbabwean asylum seekers who have been left in a harsh legal limbo - unable to work, deprived of welfare and unable to return home. If the British people had heard what we have heard from destitute Zimbabweans, they would be troubled and perhaps even ashamed."

A march and rally is due to be held in Westminster on Friday, to ask for asylum seekers from Zimbabwe to be given status and the right to work. It will begin in Parliament Square, outside Westminster Abbey, at 1.30pm.

It will be preceded by a special service at St Margaret’s Church Westminster Abbey, led by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.




  • The Still Human Still Here Campaign
    Dedicated to highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers who are being forced into abject poverty in an attempt to drive them out of the country.

4 comments:

  1. Britain was complicit in getting Mugabe into power in the first place. There was intimidation and torture before the first independence election which Britain, always Perfidious Albion, chose to ignore. And then ignored the genocide committed by their prodigy two years later. Now they just want to leave people to rot. WORLD LEADER- I don't think so. Complicit murderers? YES:
    I would be ashamed of being British.

    Britain should be standing in the court at the Hague for crimes against humanity.


    From The Observer (UK), 6 July
    UK is sending 11,000 Mugabe refugees back
    Jamie Doward, home affairs editor
    Attempts by Gordon Brown to use a meeting of G8 leaders this week to campaign for tougher action against Zimbabwe are in danger of being undermined by claims that Britain is forcing as many as 11,000 Zimbabweans seeking refuge here to make a stark choice between destitution or returning home to possible torture or death. Letters obtained by The Observer show that the Home Office continues to order failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers to return home in the face of mounting violence. A removal letter, sent at the end of May to an exiled London-based member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, states: 'The support that you have been provided with is to be discontinued ... You should note that there is no right to appeal against this decision ... You must now leave the United Kingdom.' The letter, which refugee groups say has been sent to hundreds of Zimbabweans in the past few months, continues: 'As a failed asylum seeker you are expected to make arrangements to leave the United Kingdom without delay.'
    The letter's recipient, a man who asked not to be named for fear it would jeopardise his safety if he is forced to return to Zimbabwe, said that he had been tortured by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party. 'I have to report to the Home Office every two weeks but I haven't got any money to pay the travel costs,' he said. The majority of Zimbabweans in the UK are too scared to return. As a result, refugee groups and charities say many Zimbabwean asylum seekers are now destitute and relying on friends and charity. 'These letters are shameful,' said Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council. 'It is appalling that the government is continuing to order Zimbabweans to go back to Zimbabwe, especially under the current circumstances, and basically leaving them to starve if they don't.' She said: 'It is scarcely believable that even now, when there can be no questioning of the atrocities being committed by Mugabe's regime, people asking for safety here are being turned away.' Sir John Waite, co-chairman of the Independent Asylum Commission, which has just published a report on the asylum system in the UK, described the situation as a source of shame. He said: 'We heard testimony from many Zimbabwean asylum seekers and we were shocked by what we found - Zimbabweans sleeping on sofas, in parks and launderettes, reliant on charity and prevented from working.' He added: 'Our nation's leaders have loudly condemned the Mugabe regime, but perhaps we should also look a little closer to home, to the thousands of Zimbabwean asylum seekers who have been left in a harsh legal limbo - unable to work, deprived of welfare and unable to return home. If the British people had heard what we have heard from destitute Zimbabweans, they would be troubled and perhaps even ashamed.'
    The Home Office won a legal ruling earlier in the year giving it the power to send Zimbabweans home. But the ruling, the result of a three-year legal battle, was disputed by refugee groups. Last week the Court of Appeal adjourned the case, a move that has meant thousands of Zimbabweans continue to be left without benefits. 'The hidden consequence of this decision is that up to 11,000 refused Zimbabwean asylum seekers will be left destitute, not given any support or accommodation and at risk of prosecution if they work to support themselves, so that some are forced to beg and sleep rough,' said Caroline Slocock, chief executive of the Refugee Legal Centre. Nick Scott-Flynn, head of refugee services at the Red Cross, estimates a tenth of the 10,000 refugees his organisation helps in the UK each year are Zimbabwean. 'Many are petrified about going back,' he said. 'They are in limbo - not allowed to work and not allowed to receive benefits. The consequences of this policy is causing a lot of needless suffering, and there is no evidence it is encouraging people to return home.'
    Marilyn Bonzo, who is seeking asylum in the UK after being accused of supporting the MDC, is one Zimbabwean living in destitution. 'I now live on the charity of my British friends and food that the Red Cross give me,' she said. This week Britain is to lead calls urging G8 countries not to recognise the re-election of Mugabe and to consider tighter sanctions against his regime. In April, Brown said: 'I am appalled by the signs that the regime is once again resorting to intimidation and violence.' But Covey said the government's policy on Zimbabwe was contradictory. 'What people find bewildering is the disconnect between what the government says in regards to its foreign policy and its immigration policy,' she said. 'The Home Office has got very expensive lawyers trying to deport opposition activists, and the message going back to Zimbabwe is that the UK is not a safe haven.' Refugee support groups are now calling on the government urgently to relax the rules barring Zimbabwean asylum seekers from working. The Foreign Office minister, Lord Malloch Brown, recently hinted this was a proposal being considered by the government. A UK Border Agency spokeswoman said that, although the agency was sending out letters ordering failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers to return home, it had no plans to start forced removals. 'We always seek to assist anyone who wishes to return,' she said.

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