HomeLocalBritish govt wins reprieve against Zim asylum-seekers

British govt wins reprieve against Zim asylum-seekers

THE British government won an appeal on Wednesday against a court ruling which had effectively barred it from deporting failed asylum-seekers back to Zimbabwe.

In a decision which could have serious implications for scores of Zimbabweans seeking to remain in Britain, an appeal court judge

overturned an earlier ruling from the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT).

That ruling, made in October last year, barred the British government from deporting two Zimbabweans, saying that, as asylum seekers, they would be in danger of persecution from the government of President Robert Mugabe if sent home.

The ruling set a precedent for all such cases and prompted the government to halt deportations pending its appeal.

Wednesday’s latest twist in the long-running saga will dismay human rights groups who say Zimbabwe is not safe for returnees. Last year, around 40 Zimbabweans staged a hunger strike to protest against British plans to deport them.

“Too many of those who have been forcibly returned in the past have suffered persecution, mistreatment and imprisonment,” said the Zimbabwe Association, a support group for Zimbabwean asylum seekers and refugees in Britain.

“The Zimbabwe government’s attitude towards asylum seekers is well known,” it said in a statement. “They are regarded as traitors. Treason carries the death penalty.”

The case will now go back to the AIT for a further ruling, and the government said it would wait until then before forcibly returning anyone to Zimbabwe.

“The government remains deeply concerned about the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, and continues to press for an end to abuses,” said Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

“I cannot emphasise strongly enough that we would not enforce the return of a failed asylum seeker to Zimbabwe if we believed that they were at real risk of mistreatment.”

The government initially suspended deportations to Zimbabwe in January 2002 because of the political situation there, but resumed them in late 2004, saying things had improved.
 
It suspended them again last year in the wake of the court appeals against its policy.

Britain has been vocal in its condemnation of Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since Independence from Britain in 1980. — Reuter.

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