Britain to deport failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers

Britain is to resume deporting failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers following a ruling by asylum judges that things have improved in Zimbabwe and there is no danger of facing harm.

The ruling affects about 3 000 Zimbabweans who have failed to get asylum and have exhausted all avenues of appeal. It is believed that there are about 10 000 Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the United Kingdom.

Last week a member of the House of Lords said the British government should not pressurise exiled Zimbabweans living in that country to return home “prematurely” because the security situation in Zimbabwe had not improved greatly.

Leslie John Griffiths told the House of Lords that instead “we can put a little muscle behind the coaxing- if it can be done with muscle- of the UK Border Agency and other authorities towards that end”.

He said the agencies should prepare and train Zimbabweans to go home when things are settled so that they can take their rightful places in rebuilding their country.

Asylum judges led by Justice Blake, however, said:

  • As a general matter, there is significantly less politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe now. The evidence does not show that, as a general matter, the return of a failed asylum seeker from the United Kingdom, having no significant MDC profile, would result in that person facing a real risk of having to demonstrate loyalty to the ZANU-PF.
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  • In general, a returnee from the United Kingdom to rural Matabeleland North or Matabeleland South is highly unlikely to face significant difficulty from ZANU-PF elements, including the security forces, even if the returnee is a MDC member or supporter.
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  • A returnee to Harare will in general face no significant difficulties, if going to a low-density or medium-density area. Whilst the socio-economic situation in high-density areas is more challenging, in general a person without ZANU-PF connections will not face significant problems there (including a “loyalty test”), unless he or she has a significant MDC profile, which might cause him or her to feature on a list of those targeted for harassment, or would otherwise engage in political activities likely to attract the adverse attention of ZANU-PF.
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  • A returnee to Bulawayo will in general not suffer the adverse attention of ZANU-PF, including the security forces, even if he or she has a significant MDC profile.
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  • The issue of what is a person’s home for the purposes of internal relocation is to be decided as a matter of fact and is not necessarily to be determined by reference to the place a person from Zimbabwe regards as his or her rural homeland. As a general matter, it is unlikely that a person with a well-founded fear of persecution in a major urban centre such as Harare will have a viable internal relocation alternative to a rural area in the Eastern provinces. Relocation to Matabeleland (including Bulawayo) may be negated by discrimination, where the returnee is Shona.
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  • Internal relocation from a rural area to Harare or (subject to what we have just said) Bulawayo is, in general, more realistic; but the socio-economic circumstances in which persons are reasonably likely to find themselves will need to be considered, in order to determine whether it would be unreasonable or unduly harsh to expect them to relocate.
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  • The economy of Zimbabwe has markedly improved since the period considered in RN. The replacement of the Zimbabwean currency by the US dollar and the South African rand has ended the recent hyperinflation. The availability of food and other goods in shops has likewise improved, as has the availability of utilities in Harare. Although these improvements are not being felt by everyone, with 15% of the population still requiring food aid, there has not been any deterioration in the humanitarian situation since late 2008. Zimbabwe has a large informal economy, ranging from street traders to home-based enterprises, which (depending on the circumstances) returnees may be expected to enter.
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  • As was the position in RN, those who are or have been teachers require to have their cases determined on the basis that this fact places them in an enhanced or heightened risk category, the significance of which will need to be assessed on an individual basis.
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  • In certain cases, persons found to be seriously lacking in credibility may properly be found as a result to have failed to show a reasonable likelihood (a) that they would not, in fact, be regarded, on return, as aligned with ZANU-PF and/or (b) that they would be returning to a socio-economic milieu in which problems with ZANU-PF will arise. This important point was identified in RN, and remains valid.

 Guidance is also given on the assessment of the private and family life of a Zimbabwean national present in the United Kingdom for over 11 years with children born and/or resident most of their lives in the United Kingdom.

In the absence of countervailing factors, residence of over 7 years with children well-integrated into the educational system in the United Kingdom, is an indicator that the welfare of the child favours regularisation of the status of mother and children.

The UKBA said last night that cases would be considered "on their individual merits and with enormous care". Matthew Coats, head of immigration, said: "We prefer people who are here illegally to leave voluntarily... for those who choose not to do so, it becomes necessary to enforce their departure."

Here is the asylum judges full judgment:

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