By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
15 April 2014
The UK government is being urged to consider implementing a moratorium on the deportations of failed Zimbabwe asylum seekers, because of the worsening situation there.
The UK resumed deportations in 2012 after suspending the practice four years earlier. The moratorium was put in place because of politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe during the 2008 elections, a situation which was deemed too risky for people to be forcibly returned to.
But since 2012 the UK has stated it is safe for people to be returned home. This position has remained the same, despite the highly disputed elections in the country last year.
According to the London based protest group, the Zimbabwe Vigil, many of the people targeted with deportation have been its own members. Vigil coordinator Dennis Benton said Vigil activists and many other vocal opponents of the political crisis back home face real threats if they are returned.
“Our argument is that first of all the economy is collapsing, and secondly these people are at real risk because we know that the CIO checks our activity all the time. One of our supporters spoke to a friend back home who went to the police headquarters, and the police there were looking at the Vigil diary, and we publish photos on the diary of our protests and our supporters every week,” Benton explained.
He added: “So what we want is a moratorium until there is a new, democratically approved election in Zimbabwe. And we can’t just wait until 2018. Things like the economy are spiraling into total chaos and at any moment there could be serious trouble.”
The Vigil recently received a letter from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which Benton said reflected some concern about the situation in Zimbabwe. The letter was in reply to the Vigil’s calls on Prime Minister David Cameron not to attend a European Union (EU) summit that was set to include Robert Mugabe. That summit earlier this month was ultimately boycotted by Mugabe over the EU failure to invite his wife.
The FCO’s letter spoke of serious concern “about the significant weaknesses identified during the 2013 elections and the lack of transparency identified by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), and domestic observation missions, which call into doubt the credibility of the elections.”
It continued: “We believe that significant improvements in the electoral process are required along the lines proposed by international and domestic observers, if future elections are to be both credible and transparent.”
The Vigil said: “The FCO letter makes clear that the situation in Zimbabwe is unacceptable yet the UK Home Office seems to be stepping up the deportation of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers. How can there be so little communication between two government ministries? This is a point that we plan to make to the Home Office.”