Thousands of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers battling to stay in the United Kingdom face an uphill task as it has emerged members of civil society told the British government that the country was now safe for people to return.
Zimbabweans who had previously sought asylum in the UK but voluntarily returned home also told a British government fact-finding team which visited the country in August that they had not faced any problems.
The testimonies, given to the United Kingdom Border Agency, resulted in the home office resolving to go ahead with enforced returns, although hearings will be conducted before any deportations take place.
The director of appeals and removals in the British home office, Phil Douglas, wrote to Zimbabweans informing them that deportations would resume.
“There have been some positive changes in the situation in Zimbabwe since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009.
“The indiscriminate violence which marred the elections of 2008 has abated.
The economy is growing and the political situation is relatively stable while the humanitarian situation has greatly improved over the last 18 months,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is, for many people, a safer and better place to live today than it was in 2008. There is no doubt that political persecution and abuses of human rights persist in Zimbabwe.
“However, these abuses are more targeted than previously, and not all Zimbabweans are equally affected.”
Zimbabweans in the UK are fighting the planned deportations, but are likely to lose their case given the evidence which the fact-finding team has collected.
The team interviewed several organisations including Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Bulawayo Agenda and Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association.
They also interviewed the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace Zimbabwe, Commercial Farmers’ Union, Counselling Services Unit, International Committee of the Red Cross, Radio Dialogue Research and Advocacy Unit, international agencies, church groups and several other organisations that chose to remain anonymous.
Elections, which are being touted for next year, were cited as a potential trigger for violence.
“All organisations reported that current levels of violence were down compared to what was experienced in 2008,” read the executive summary, in relation to political violence.