Zimbabwean nationals who were denied asylum in the United Kingdom face renewed deportation threats after a United Kingdom Border Agency fact-finding team visited Harare to asses whether Zimbabwe is still an unsafe place. They could be back home in time for Christmas.
The agency report would be submitted to a tribunal in October, which
will decide the fate of an estimated 20 000 failed asylum seekers in the UK where several thousands are living illegally. Thousands of Zimbabweans were granted asylum after convincing the British government that they were victims of state persecution.
Andrew Jones, the British embassy’s first secretary in charge of migration, said the information gathered by the fact-finding team would be used as evidence in the UK Asylum Tribunal in October, adding that people not deserving asylum would be sent back to Zimbabwe.
“The aim of the mission is to ensure that the UK Border Agency has the
most up-to-date information on the situation in Zimbabwe. This information will be presented by the government as evidence in a country guidance hearing in the UK Asylum Tribunal that will take place in October this year,” he said.
“The UK Government takes its international obligations to refugees very seriously. We will continue to grant protection to those who need it. But we expect those who do not need it to return home.”
Jones said fact-finding missions are sent to countries where there is need for additional information to inform the asylum decision-making process teams, an indication that the UK believes that conditions in Zimbabwe could be conducive for failed asylum seekers to return home.
The visit by the fact-finding team was a follow-up to a government decision made last year when the UK Immigration Minister in the previous government, Phil Woolas, made a statement in Parliament on the issue of failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants in the UK.
“We have kept this issue under review since the Home Office first deferred enforced returns to Zimbabwe in September 2006 and the courts have found that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection.
“The UK Border Agency will, therefore, be starting work over the autumn
on a process towards normalising our returns policy to Zimbabwe, towards resuming enforced returns progressively as the political situation develops,” Woolas said.
A report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) titled 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Aslyum Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, says more than 158 000 Zimbabweans had applied for asylum in 2009. Most of those who sought asylum were in South Africa.
Meanwhile, human rights groups, which successfully stopped the deportation of failed asylum seekers from the UK last year, are preparing to fight the British government over the deportations threat.