Charity group blasts proposed UK deportation of Zimbabweans

Harare – A charity working for Zimbabwean asylum seekers and refugees in the UK has criticised the planned deportations of failed asylum seekers, saying Sunday that such a move was counter-productive and would cause stress among the Zimbabwean community.\r\n

Britain announced last week that it was moving to resume flights deporting failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, citing a political power-sharing agreement in the troubled state.

UK Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said he was looking at "normalising" returns to Zimbabwe because the situation was "improving" after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was appointed prime minister in February.

Returns were halted three years ago in the wake of the violence and crisis that gripped the country under President Robert Mugabe.

Woolas also announced money and aid repatriation packages worth 6,000 pounds (or US$9,900) to asylum seekers who volunteered to go home.

But the Zimbabwean Association said the threat of enforced removals meant that those thinking of returning home voluntarily would now be suspicious about the British government’s voluntary return package.

“It is counter-productive and will result in much stress and anxiety among the Zimbabwean community in the UK,” the association said.

It questioned the timing of the repatriation programme, saying conditions in Zimbabwe had not yet returned to normal and some of the returnees faced serious risk of persecution for supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.