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Thursday, 3 November 2005

Zimbabwe Deportations Continuing Despite Ban

Two newspapers, The Guardian and ZWNews.com, have revealed that Home Office officials are routinely ignoring the national identities of failed asylum seekers in order to get round a ban on returning them to Zimbabwe.

The Guardian (Oct. 24) revealed that Home Office officials attempted to remove twin sisters, Patience and Patricia Zondo, 28, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, during which guards assaulted one of the women.

The sisters were removed from Yarls Wood detention centre and Patricia was taken to Manchester airport while her sister was taken to Birmingham for separate flights to Johannesburg.

Although the deportations were later cancelled, the immigration service maintains that the women are South Africans. Their lawyer says both have Zimbabwean birth certificates.

Many Zimbabwean asylum seekers arrive in Britain from South Africa, often traveling on false papers from that country. The Home Office, in its own guidance briefings, says “a great deal of caution should be applied in placing significant weight on South African passports or identity documents where the claimant asserts they are not entitled to them.”

In August, Justice Collins halted removals to Zimbabwe, a ruling confirmed by judges in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. Since the high court ruling, the Home Office has attempted to remove eight Zimbabweans on the grounds that they are South Africans. The Refugee Legal Centre successfully argued in the high court that all eight were Zimbabwean nationals.

Deri Hughes-Roberts of the Refugee Legal Centre told The Guardian that his office had represented Zimbabweans whose nationality had been disputed by the Home Office. “Officials persisted in arguing that these people were from South Africa, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” he said.

Zimbabweans removed to South Africa were detained in the Lindela repatriation camp, notorious for its poor conditions, before being sent to Zimbabwe. Between April and July this year, more than 20 Zimbabweans are reported to have died in detention at the Lindela immigration holding facility in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“We would have very grave concerns if the Home Office is disputing nationality as a way of getting around the ruling,” Hughes-Roberts said.

ZWNews.com (Oct. 19) reports that a Zimbabwean asylum seeker with a Malawian passport, was deported to Malawi on Saturday, Oct. 15 while another failed asylum seeker was deported the following Monday and a third was due to be removed on Tuesday night.

The removals came just days after an asylum tribunal ruled that it was not safe to return failed cases to Zimbabwe.

ZWNews.com says, “Although the home office said it would consider the tribunal’s findings, deportations are continuing while a general policy is being formulated.”

This article was first published on the World Press Review.