By Alex Bell
19 July 2011
An activist with the London based Zimbabwe protest group The Vigil, is being detained in the UK and faces deportation in the coming days.
Josephine Chari is being held at the Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire and is set to be deported on Thursday night. UK immigration officials have apparently already organised for her to fly out of the country via a Kenyan Airways flight to Nairobi.
According to The Vigil’s coordinator Rose Benton, Chari’s asylum application has been rejected by the UK authorities, in what she described as “as sign that the Home Office is toughening up.” Benton said that The Vigil is receiving reports of a growing number of asylum applications being rejected, after the UK announced in March that it was ‘safe’ to return people back to Zimbabwe.
But Benton told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the decision is short sighted, given the increasing violence, harassment and intimidation facing activists in Zimbabwe.
“We don’t believe that failed asylum seekers should be removed until the situation is safe for opponents of Robert Mugabe. Josephine is being deported when there are no guarantees of her safety, particularly as she is a person who has been visible as a Vigil activist,” Benton said.
In July 2010 an activist representing The Vigil and Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe returned home on a visit. But while there he was identified as a Vigil supporter and arrested, beaten up and tortured.
“This incident shows that activism in the UK and attendance at the Vigil increases the risk of being known by the forces within Zimbabwe that still perpetrate violence against Mugabe opponents. We are a high-profile protest that has been under constant surveillance by intelligence operatives of the regime,” The Vigil said.