Zimbabweans who fail to gain asylum will be forced to return

Britain is to begin the forced return of thousands of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe in a change of policy condemned by human rights groups.

The Immigration minister, Damian Green, told MPs yesterday that Zimbabweans would now be treated like any other failed asylum seekers.

But he added that the policy will not be enforced until the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Unified Tribunal Service (IAC) gives further guidance on the "general safety of return to Zimbabwe".

The forcible return of refugees from the UK to Zimbabwe was halted four years ago, after the High Court ruled that opponents of President Robert Mugabe would be at risk.

Ministers first considered lifting the ban on removals after the presidential election of Morgan Tsvangirai in March 2008, but Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF followers embarked on a campaign of intimidation and violence in which more than 180 people – mostly supporters of Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change – were killed.

Those who are perceived as a threat to the regime are said to have been randomly abused, and supporters of Mr Mugabe in the UK are reported to have used videos to identify Zimbabwe refugees protesting outside the embassy building.

The Foreign Office says the situation in Zimbabwe has improved since 2008, but "remains unpredictable and could deteriorate". UK travellers are warned to avoid demonstrations and known trouble spots as "human rights abuses and instances of political violence continue, particularly in agricultural and mining areas".

Among those who could be affected by the decision is Gamu Nhengu, the former X Factor contestant whose family fled Zimbabwe eight years ago and now faces deportation. The UK Border Agency has refused to extend the family's visas. Sarah Harland, co-ordinator of the Zimbabwe Association, said: "We do not believe this is the right time for enforced returns, with control of the state security forces remaining in the hands of the perpetrators of violence." She said a recent international report warned of a further decline in the rule of law in Zimababwe.

She said it was important that the Government had conceded there were some Zimbabweans who still have a well-founded fear of persecution and would benefit from protection in the UK, and that no action would be taken until the end of the court case.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "We are concerned the Government plans to resume forcibly returning Zimbabwean asylum seekers to their country. However, it is encouraging that they recognise each individual case needs to be carefully considered before deciding whether to send them back."

Mr Green said the change in policy "does not reflect any change in our categorical opposition to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe", adding that the decision to resume enforced returns reflected the "improved stability in Zimbabwe since 2009 and the UK courts' view that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection."

He said: "Those who have no right to remain in the UK, and who choose not to return voluntarily, will then face enforced return, in exactly the same way as failed asylum seekers of all other countries.

"The courts have found that not all Zimbabweans need international protection, and given the improved situation since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, the time is now right to bring our policy... into line with that of every other country. Those found not to be in need of protection have always been expected to return home."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
science
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Software Developer / Programmer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: IT Software Developer / Program...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executives

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of Europe's leading prov...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor