Fears rise for Zim activist facing deportation from UK

Shamiso Kofi, member the Zimbabwe Vigil

By Alex Bell
18 October 2011

Fears are rising for the wellbeing of a Zimbabwean activist, set to be deported from the UK this week.

Shamiso Kofi, also know as Caroline Shamiso Tagarira, is an active and recognisable member of the London based protest group the Zimbabwe Vigil. Last month, she was arrested and detained by UK immigration officials who tried to deport her.

Vigil coordinator Rose Benton told SW Radio Africa that Shamiso was put on a Kenyan Airways flight out of London, but she put up such a fight that the pilot refused to take her. She was removed from the plane and has since been detained at the Yarls Wood detention centre.

“I am not allowed to tell her full story, but she told me she is still in pain from her experiences. She said she went through hell and just feels like dying. She is also extremely frightened,” Benton explained.

Shamiso’s deportation has now been moved to Thursday, and she is set to be deported on a Virgin Airways flight out of London. The Vigil has launched a campaign calling on the public to pressure Virgin not to allow this to happen. A petition has also been started asking the Home Office to halt her removal, on the grounds that she might not be safe back in Zimbabwe.

People are also being urged to write to the UK’s Immigration Minister Damian Green, the Home Secretary Theresa May and the MP from the area where Shamiso lives, Stephen McPartland.

Benton meanwhile added that letters have been sent to Virgin boss Richard Branson, asking why he is allowing his airline to deport people to a country under control of a dictator that he wanted out of power.

It was revealed recently in a leaked diplomatic cable from the US Embassy that Branson was involved in discussions aimed at trying to find a way to remove Robert Mugabe in 2007. According to the cable, released by the WikiLeaks website, Branson had meetings with Jonathan Moyo, Gideon Gono and top African statesmen about how to make this happen, and then move the country forward.

The billionaire businessman has confirmed these details. He told the UK’s Independent newspaper the plan fell apart when he and his colleagues started questioning whether Moyo and his supporters were the right people to partner with to rebuild Zimbabwe.

The Vigil’s Benton said that Branson therefore “must be aware that Zimbabwe is not a safe place to return nationals who have participated in activism against the human rights abuses in that country.”

You can sign the Vigil’s petition and get details on other ways to campaign for Shamiso by following this link:

http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/339-campaign-to-stop-deportation-of-shamiso-kofi



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