'Hiding is better than going home'
Zimbabwean failed asylum-seekers in the UK fear they could be forced to go into hiding if the authorities enforce a new court ruling that allows the Home Office to deport them.
The judgment means up to 10000 Zimbabwean failed asylum-seekers now face being forcibly removed.
The refugees are looking at ways to fight the judgment, which includes petitioning Prime Minister David Cameron and holding demonstrations. However, if a solution is not found, they say they prefer to hide from authorities in the UK rather than to be sent back to Robert Mugabe’s terror, which is what they fled from.
In the landmark ruling, immigration judge Justice Blake stated it is now safe to return people to the country. In 2006, the British Home Office halted forced repatriation to Zimbabwe. The deportation of individuals to the politically unstable country meant their safety could not be guaranteed. But in October last year, after a Home Office fact-finding trip to Zimbabwe, Immigration Minister Damian Green announced it would again repatriate failed asylum-seekers. This new ruling gives the Home Office the green light from the courts to go ahead, despite the refugees insisting it is still not safe to return.
Danford Mahlanze, a failed asylum-seeker, said: "Mugabe and Zanu-PF are on the rampage in Zimbabwe. It’s really bad. I’m not going back. Failed asylum-seekers will go into hiding in the UK because of this ruling. They will rather suffer in the UK than go back. You can’t get assistance to any food or help but it’s better than going back."
Takwana Jonga, London co-ordinator of the Zimbabwe Action Group, said: "Every asylum-seeker I know is panicking and running scared because they know what fate awaits them in Zimbabwe . The question they are asking is, what is going to happen at Harare Airport when they get deported? Many of these people have spoken against the Zimbabwean government and as we all know, it’s a crime in Zimbabwe."
According to the Home Office, between 1999 and 2008 there were 24085 asylum applications from Zimbabweans. This week a Home Office spokesman said their latest figures show that there are 10000 failed asylum-seekers in the UK, and of these, 3000 have exhausted their appeals.
If the asylum-seekers go underground, they will add to the already high number of illegal immigrants in the UK that dodge the authorities and are regarded as a serious problem by locals. A key policy of Cameron’s Tory party is to reduce the number of non-European Union nationals in the UK.
"This new Tory-Lib Dem government wants to seem tough on immigration. Attacking asylum-seekers is a good option for them because we are vulnerable easy targets," Mahlanze said.
This new judgment states that most parts of Zimbabwe are safe, especially for those without significant MDC profiles.
But critics say the ruling is flawed, saying the politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe is rife. Additionally, the attacks are not only directed at MDC supporters, but also at ordinary people who are unable to display their support for Zanu-PF, as well as civic activists and members of other parties, such as the Mthwakazi Liberation Front, whose leaders are being held for treason.
Last week several diplomats in Zimbabwe signed a petition stating their deep concern over the increasing violence, which is also being condemned by scores of rights groups in and outside the country.
This week various Zimbabwean organisations in the UK, which have the backing of the UK Refugee Council, were also busy working on their action plan following the judgment. The various organisations will also meet with Home Office representatives on Thursday to discuss the way forward. The exiles want to once again appeal to the British authorities to halt deportations until after Zimbabwe’s elections.