UK suspends deportations to Zimbabwe

A high powered delegation of the MDC, led by chairman Jonathan Chawora, held a marathon meeting in London with officials from the UK border agency on Thursday, where it was agreed to suspend the deportations.

Jaison Matewu, the organizing secretary and one of the delegates to the talks, told SW Radio Africa that they managed to convince the British officials that the situation in the country was still volatile.

‘I can confirm that following our meeting yesterday (Thursday) the deportation of Zimbabweans has been suspended until further notice.

We will meet again with the officials in January 2010 to review the situation but we are happy that for now we’ve managed to resolve this crisis,’ Matewu said.

‘We went there (Home Office) representing all Zimbabweans, not necessarily our members or activists only. We have people who claim asylum based on political, economic and humanitarian grounds.

So we told the Home Office the situation is not yet ideal for any Zimbabwean to be deported because of the renewed surge in violence perpetrated by ZANU PF,’ Matewu added.

The MDC-UK was part of a growing list of organisations in the UK who criticised the planned deportations of failed asylum seekers by the British government. They said such a move was counter-productive and would cause stress among the Zimbabwean community.

The British government announced two weeks ago that it was considering resuming the deportation of failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe. It cited the political power-sharing agreement in the country as an indication that the situation had changed.

UK Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said he was looking at ‘normalising’ returns to Zimbabwe because the situation was ‘improving’ after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was appointed Prime Minister in February.

But conditions in the country have not yet returned to normal and some of the returnees face serious risk of persecution for supporting the MDC.

Last week United Nations human rights expert, Manfred Nowak, was detained by security officials on arrival in the country and was deported. He said the situation in Zimbabwe was ‘worsening.’

Amnesty International also said that Zimbabwe was once again on the ‘brink of violence.’ (SW Radio Africa)