Britain to aid UK citizens in Zimbabwe

The British government has launched an emergency initiative to help hundreds of elderly British nationals, hit by the collapse of the food distribution and medical systems in Zimbabwe, to resettle in Britain.

The offer is being rolled out over the next 18 months to British citizens and nationals with the right of abode in the UK and is expected to target a total 750 households whose members have already registered with the British embassy in Harare.

John Healey, the local government minister, is coordinating the programme for those who are aged 70 or over, or who are considered vulnerable because of their care needs or medical conditions. He said yesterday: "The situation in Zimbabwe continues to make it hard to access food and medical care. That’s why we are offering help to older and vulnerable British people who are unable to support themselves in Zimbabwe and want to resettle in the UK."

Britain would offer assistance to those concerned by paying for travel and helping with financial support and housing following relocation. The government has advised Britons in Zimbabwe to consider relocation since 2007 but the latest offer provides an additional incentive to those identified for assistance.

Under the rule of President Robert Mugabe, who has just entered a controversial power-sharing arrangement with the former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe has sunk into an unprecedented economic crisis with inflation spiralling to the world’s highest rate of 231 million per cent. Prices are doubling every day and half of the 12m population needs food aid. A cholera epidemic is raging and has killed more than 3,500 people.