Removals to Zimbabwe will put many at risk


Removals to Zimbabwe will put many at risk

Comment

Written by: Terence Ranger


The resumption of removals to Zimbabwe reflects a changing political climate in Britain rather than any lessening in the merits of Zimbabwean asylum claims.

The government announced on 16 November 2004 that it was lifting the suspension on returns to Zimbabwe. Its spokesman said that ‘we suspended temporarily all enforced returns to Zimbabwe in 2002 for the best of motives but it has been exploited’. Zimbabweans were arriving on false documents and, with manifestly weak claims, were confident in the knowledge that they would be allowed to stay in Britain even if their asylum claims were disallowed. As supporting evidence, the Home Office asserted that, between January and November 2004, 1,825 of the 2,025 Zimbabweans who applied for asylum were refused it.

There are several grave flaws in this official position. However good the motives of the initial suspension, it was rapidly followed by the introduction of a visa regime. No Zimbabwean could travel to Britain without a visa; no-one could apply at the British High Commission (now Embassy) for a visa on the grounds that they wished to claim asylum. Even the most genuine of asylum seekers, therefore, had either to pretend some other reason for wishing to visit Britain or else to obtain false South African or Malawian passports – both taken as adequate reasons for refusing their applications.

Moreover, the very high numbers of refusals in the last eleven months contrast strikingly with statistics for the previous period subsequent to the stay on removals when there was an unusually high proportion – over 40 per cent – of successful appeals by Zimbabwean asylum seekers. The change during this year reflects not so much the increased number of ‘bogus’ claimants as the imposition of a new regime. Fast track assessments allow no time for proper investigation or representation. The drastic cut-back on legal aid means that fewer expert reports are commissioned. Many of the best asylum legal practitioners have withdrawn their services because of the manifest impossibility of adequately representing their clients. Anyone who has written expert reports knows how arbitrary initial Home Office refusals can be. They are now unlikely to be challenged.

The new policy makes no pretence that Zimbabwe has become a safer place since 2002. The government says that there has been no change ‘in our opposition to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’ and that it will work to ‘restore democracy so that all Zimbabweans can in time return safely to help build a prosperous and stable Zimbabwe’. In the meantime, however, it proposes to send many Zimbabweans back to an unstable Zimbabwe in a state of economic collapse and with continuing human rights abuses. What has changed since 2002 is not Zimbabwe but the British political climate. In 2002, Zimbabwe was much in the news because of the take-over of White-owned land. Even the Conservative Party supported the suspension of removals. Now Zimbabwe has dropped out of the news headlines. Few British politicians seem to care any longer about what happens to Black Zimbabweans.

But those of us who do care wish to register a strong protest against the resumption of removals and to call for the re-instatement of just processes of assessment of asylum claims.

Related links

Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees in the UK

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns


Terence Ranger is Emeritus Professor, Oxford University, and President of the Britain Zimbabwe Society.


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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s. Jubane
s. Jubane
51 years ago

it is not fair for zimbabweans to be deported at this crucial moment before the elections, would it not be better after the elections. after all some are very genuine cases but were not properly presented hence the refusal, especially ndebele people.

victoria
victoria
16 years ago

the british government is very good at always wanting to look like the saviours of any country or group of people any time that there is a crisis going on somewhere. if they are so concerned about helping zimbabwe towards democracy why hasnt Blair gone to zimbabwe.Yes?!he is such an intelligent lawyer so he can never be short of words. he is a very convincing and imaginative person , he cannot fail to strike up a deal with other african leaders who can influence mugabe such as Thabo Mbeki. why is ther such a gap between the developing world and the western countries?well we all know why – some people would say colonialism, others slavery, others wealth and some will simply say oil! i am still talking about Britain’s government here.the world has gone on for too long with unfair governments and some people being more equal than others. mugabe is a very evil person and there have been many dictators like him throughout history .he has killed thousands thru genocide of the ndebele people whom nobody knows about because we are so few, impoverished the country and continues to separate people along racial and tribal lines for his own benefit. the United Nations is there for a good reason such as this – to promote world peace (no only in the western world) by protecting human rights. it is so typical of a government that wants a good reputation and worse than that , a government that has its own selfish agendas and interests that wants to “appear” to protect the weak and threatened . but as soon as their interest wanes in that country and the worlds focus shifts to say Iraq(eye-rac as Bush would say) or afghanistan then they think it is ok to forget about the people they said they would protect because anyway they have found out theres nothing to be gained in it! will the british government overlook the advice of the UN to stop deporting zimbabweans just like Bush decided to go ahead with war in Iraq against Kofi Anan’s better judgement 2 years ago?

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