Taurai Muduma, 29, has been told he will be deported to Harare via Kenya Airways flight KQ101 on June 9 after losing his appeal to stay in England.
Britain is currently not enforcing returns to Zimbabwe, even in most cases where judges have recommended deportation in criminal trials.
“The Home Office has had a policy in place where removals to Zimbabwe were suspended. There has been no official change in policy and if this intended deportation is not a clandestine manoeuvre, then we must see it as a very significant event indeed,” said Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya, a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and immigration lawyer based in Coventry.
Another immigration lawyer, Birmingham-based Taffy Nyawanza, said direct removals to Zimbabwe were unheard of – although the Home Office has been deporting Zimbabweans who used foreign passports back to those countries which are presumed to be safe.
Nyawanza said: “It is one thing for a court to recommend deportation, and another thing altogether for deportation proceedings to commence against a Zimbabwean, or generally, a national of a country where the Home Office have a policy of no returns.”
Muduma arrived in the UK on November 2, 2000, with temporary admission for a week. He overstayed and was arrested by Harrogate Police on April 19, 2002. He claimed asylum 10 days later but his application was refused on May 6 of that year. His appeal against the asylum decision was deemed to be abandoned in September 2002.
Between August 27, 2004, and January 24, 2008, Muduma amassed a string of criminal convictions ranging from common assault, disorderly behaviour, shoplifting to drink driving.
The Secretary of State made a decision to deport him. He appealed against the decision and his appeal rights were exhausted on February 23, 2007. Muduma failed to report to the police on December 11, 2007, and was then declared an absconder.
He was arrested by police on January 7 this year and a deportation order was served on him. He was detained at Oakington Immigration Centre.
He initiated a fresh asylum claim on January 11 which was treated as a human rights application. But on April 16, 2009, the UK Border Agency refused to revoke the deportation order.
In rejecting Muduma’s appeal against the deportation order, the Border Agency said between August 2004 and January 2008, he had 12 convictions and 27 offences. The Secretary of State agreed with the immigration judge’s findings on February 14, 2007, that Muduma presented a “significant risk to the well-being of the general public”.
Lawyers for the Refugee Legal Centre are weighing a challenge against the deportation order.