Deportation of Zimbabwean asylum-seeker is delayed

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The Independent Online

The Zimbabwean asylum-seeker whose flight was due to leave for Malawi yesterday has had her passage cancelled. Following The Independent's article on Zimbabwean asylum-seekers being wrongly removed to Malawi, Maude Lennard was told she did not have to board a flight to Lilongwe.

A judge ruled yesterday that Ms Lennard, who has now been on hunger strike for 45 days, was unfit to fly. Ms Lennard, who was persecuted for being an activist for Zimbabwe's opposition party, the MDC, paid to get a Malawian passport to escape the country.

Since then the Home Office have treated her as a Malawian, and were scheduled to be sending her there, despite the risk of her falling victim to retaliation.

Sarah Harland, co-ordinator at the Zimbabwe Association, said: "We're so relieved to hear that her flight has been stopped, and perhaps now these cases will be looked at with some compassion. It seems that The Independent has helped hugely to bring the matter out in the open."

The judgement on Ms Lennard's flight came after a doctor at Yarl's Wood detention centre had approved her as well enough to travel. Her lawyer said: "The doctors who have taken an interest in her case believed that to remove her without medical attention would prove a serious risk to her health. The in-house doctors did not agree with that, but the Immigration Service were presented with cogent evidence that she was not fit to fly."

Dr Frank Arnold of Medical Justice, who provided evidence that Ms Lennard was too unwell to fly, said: "This is a dangerous situation. Doctors in detention centres appear to be putting the interests of their employers ahead of the interests of their patients. If true, this is a violation of the duties of a doctor, and should be investigated."