Tortured and dumped: the fate of those sent home to Mugabe by UK

Investigation: Deportation policy under fire as 'IoS' reveals brutal reception of Zimbabweans

The disclosures, which last night plunged the Government into a new row about its controversial policy, highlight the grave danger that deportees face when refused asylum and forcibly deported back to the country ruled by President Mugabe's regime.

The cases uncovered by the IoS include at least six incidents of refugees being assaulted; one beaten so severely he was hospitalised; one being nearly drowned during interrogation; and others dumped without food and water deep in the bush.

These new revelations will fuel the bitter row now enveloping the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, after he refused to halt the forcible returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers despite the violent repression now gripping the country.

Kate Hoey, the Labour MP and former minister, said these cases meant it was "shockingly wrong for the Home Office to continue to deport people". Ms Hoey added: "Charles Clarke keeps saying that we have no proof but I met people when I was there who had been tortured. Anyone who is deported back from the UK, even if they are not a political activist, is at risk because the anti-British feeling is so strong."

Ministers are planning a fresh round of deportations this week as they face a series of legal challenges over the continued detention of these refugees, and allegations of ill-treatment by guards at detention centres. The Government dramatically lost one case last night after the High Court blocked attempts to deport a 26-year-old woman on the grounds that her deportation was "inappropriate".

Menzies Campbell, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said last night the evidence uncovered meant the Home Office now had a moral duty to suspend all deportations to Zimbabwe. David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, asked that the Government suspend deportations until a rigorous method of monitoring the safety of those returned to Zimbabwe could be put in place.

The controversy erupted last month after scores of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in immigration detention centres around the country began hunger strikes in protest at Home Office plans to deport them. Up to 125 detainees are now refusing food.

The allegations uncovered by the IoS - based on investigations by Zimbabwean human rights groups and church leaders - include:

* A refugee in his 40s sent back last December alleges he was handcuffed at Harare airport by Zimbabwean secret police and driven into the bush. He was then beaten repeatedly, had his head forced into a bucket of water and was accused of being a British spy.

* Also in December, a refugee was seized a day after being interrogated for three hours at Harare airport and beaten so badly he had to be rushed to hospital. It is believed his assailants were militia linked to the ruling Zanu-PF regime.

* In May, British officials escorting another man back to Zimbabwe allegedly handed him straight to the secret police at Harare airport. He was assaulted by his interrogators, and is now in hiding.

* Last month, another returnee was interrogated at the airport, made to divulge addresses of other dissidents, then arrested at his home and interrogated again.

Dr Brighton Chireka, director of the Zimbabwe Association, said the regime's secret police, the Central Intelligence Organisation, who are increasingly paranoid, only focused on people they believed were dissidents or spies. "The Central Intelligence Organisation is the most feared in Africa," he said. In other cases, suspected dissidents are seized by militias, linked to Zanu-PF, whose favourite techniques include forcing metal rods through the victim's armpits and using paddles studded with roofing nails to beat people with.

The fate of the Zimbabweans who have been expelled by the Home Office is now being investigated by human rights activists, lawyers and religious groups.

Evidence compiled by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Group, the Zimbabwe Association and a Methodist preacher from the Midlands, Dr Martine Stemerick, suggests there could be at least 10 cases of refugees being persecuted.

Dr Stemerick has recently returned from a three-week-long trip to Zimbabwe, covertly recording evidence about the ill-treatment of returned asylum seekers.

However, tracking deported refugees in Zimbabwe is fraught with difficulty. Expatriate leaders say many asylum-seekers go into hiding immediately after they return, or are too fearful of retaliation to co-operate with lawyers and opposition groups.

Susan Harland of the Zimbabwe Association, said: "It is incredibly frustrating. These people don't have the confidence to make statements because they fear their names will be plastered everywhere. If they did, we'd be able to stop these deportations happening."

The ban on deportations to Zimbabwe was lifted in November as officials said there had been a substantial rise in the number of people making asylum claims falsely saying they were Zimbabwean. Since January at least 95 people have returned to Zimbabwe, a figure that includes people who left voluntarily.

Next week, lawyers are preparing a High Court challenge over Mr Clarke's refusal to release Crispen Kulinji, the most prominent hunger striker and opposition activist. Human rights groups are investigating reports that at least two male hunger strikers in Harmondsworth were placed in solitary confinement by guards as punishment for leading the protest. A third man is also understood to have been placed under "room arrest".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Arts and Entertainment
music
News
news

Sport
football

Follow the latest news and score as Chelsea take on Maribor at Stamford Bridge.

Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album