POLITICIANS OF all parties rushed last year to denounce the brutalities of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. Now they are united on forcibly deporting Zimbabwean refugees back to torture and possible death.
There are more than 4 million Zimbabweans living outside the country. The vast majority of these are victims of political repression by Mugabe and his oppressive and brutal ZANU-PF regime.
Many of us who were forced out of the country are now scattered all over the world as impoverished and financially destitute refugees. Our normal condition of life is that we have nowhere decent to live and we are frequently stopped and searched or arrested.
But now worse is to come. Since the end of last year the Labour government (with support from Michael Howard’s Conservatives) has decreed that we may be detained and forcibly deported. Men and women who have suffered torture and imprisonment for their political beliefs and actions, who have seen their relatives killed by Mugabe’s thugs, now face the prospect of being returned to Mugabe’s hands.
Zimbabwe is currently politically dangerous and an unsafe country to live in unless one is seen as entirely in accord with Mugabe’s regime.
But instead of being welcomed here to Britain as true refugees from oppression, black Zimbabwean asylum seekers have continued to find the doors slammed in their faces. The new policy of forced deportations makes no pretence that Zimbabwe has become a safer place since 2002 — when Britain suspended removals to the country.
The government says that there has been no change “in our opposition to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe” and it will work to “restore democracy so that all Zimbabweans can in time return safely to help build a prosperous and stable Zimbabwe”.
It is clear that what has changed since 2002 is not Zimbabwe but the British political climate.
UK immigration authorities are imposing inhuman restrictions on Zimbabwean refugees.
These include the impossible requirement for visas to enter Britain from Zimbabwe, detentions of refugees, work permit restrictions, denial of clinic and hospital treatment, removal of financial support and removal from accommodation provided by the National Asylum Seeker Service.
This wave of attacks against black Zimbabweans is unjust and inhuman. In December, last year, the Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain, declared in parliament that, “Mugabe is a murderer”. The question is why then does the British government have to send people back to Zimbabwe without any means of monitoring their fate once they are back there?
Let us think of the pain, agony, anguish and distress caused to all those Zimbabweans who are now the victims of this racist British deportation policy.
We ask everyone who believes in justice to join us on Saturday. We have already been greatly heartened by the response from trade unions, asylum rights campaigners and others. The greater the number of people on the protest, the greater the pressure on the government to rethink its policy.
Arthur Molife is Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers (ZCCDAS)
Stop the removal of Zimbabwean refugees
Saturday 29 January, 1-5pm
Home Office, 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1.
Speakers include Tony Benn.