AT THE very moment David Blunkett was tendering his resignation at 10 Downing Street before Christmas, 50 Zimbabwean refugees and their supporters were angrily demonstrating outside.
Nothing has personified the racism of the former home secretary and his government more than the relentless persecution of black Zimbabweans forced to flee to Britain.
Blunkett’s most recent move was simply staggering in its callousness and hypocrisy.
While New Labour was loudly knocking Robert Mug-abe’s human rights record for six, the Home Office began to quietly bowl “failed” Zimbabwean asylum seekers back into his hands.
Enforced returns were resumed after Blunkett lifted a two-year suspension of deportations on 16 November.
The suspension was originally won by the struggles of refugee groups and human rights lawyers who targeted the airlines ferrying claimants to almost certain torture.
The two organisers of last month’s protest, Arthur Molife and Brighton Chireila, told Socialist Worker, “Blair and Blunkett are killing us twice by sending us back home.
“The British government has put fear into the asylum seekers who were tortured by Mugabe, which is why we haven’t protested here for so long.
“About 25 Zimbabweans have been deported since the suspension ended and nearly all of them have disappeared without trace.
“The airlines take their passports and hand them over to the security officers when they touch down in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe.
“Their waiting relatives never even see them get off the plane.”
The protest was filled with people who have heartbreaking stories.
Norah said that her husband, Rafael, had been picked up a week before when he made his monthly report to the local authorities in Salford.
A member of the Zimbabwean opposition MDC, Rafael had been so badly tortured in Zimbabwe that he could hardly walk and was about to go into a Manchester hospital.
“Now he’s in a prison bed in a detention centre near Oxford and they’re about to fly him back,” said Norah. Leah’s nephew was apprehended at work in a factory in Dover and immediately deported.
Leah said, “Thulani was an MDC member in Bulawayo, where he was tortured and harassed. My sister went to Harare airport after the British put him on the plane. But she never saw him there.”
The protesters handed in petitions to Downing Street and the Foreign Office.
After the demonstration, they launched the UK Zimbabwean Community Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers to coordinate a series of national anti-deportation protests.
Its first act was to plan a demonstration in London on Saturday 29 January.
All refugee organisations, anti-deportation campaigns and trade unions are going to be invited.
For more details call Arthur Molife on 07960 126 028 or Brighton Chireila on 07960 209 253 or e-mail stoptheremovals_Zimbabwe@yahoo.co.uk
Members of Glasgow’s African community and their supporters prevented the deportation of Angolan churchman Pastor Makielokele Daly and his family in the days before Christmas.
New home secretary Charles Clarke clearly hoped that, by setting the deportations for 23 December, the removal of the Dalys would not be protested against.
Demonstrations at Dungavel (where Pastor Daly was locked up) on 19 December and the Scottish Parliament on 22 December shattered Clarke’s complacency.
The pastor was taken by road from Scotland to Heathrow to avoid the planned protest at Glasgow airport on the day of the deportation.
The Home Office is now reviewing the Dalys’ case. About 150 people also protested on Monday of this week in Glasgow city centre. Speakers included two MPs and representatives from different groups.
Mark Brown and Sheila Arthur Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees