Socialist Worker

‘Labour still sends us back to the torturers in Zimbabwe’

Zimbabwean Leonard R was waiting this week for a crucial decision on his refugee status by a court in London. He writes on why Labour must halt deportations

Issue No. 1958

In January Zimbabweans demonstrated outside the home office in London demanding an end to deportations. Establishment politicians ignored them (Pic: Guy Smallman)

In January Zimbabweans demonstrated outside the home office in London demanding an end to deportations. Establishment politicians ignored them (Pic: Guy Smallman)

I was due in court this week to discover if I would be deported back to Zimbabwe.

For all the publicity that has surrounded the brutality of the Robert Mugabe regime, I was not at all confident that I would be given asylum.

If I am sent back I am well aware of the fate that awaits me. I heard from my mother and father that the house where I used to live in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, has been demolished as part of the government’s “clear out the rubbish” campaign.

My parents were told they had to demolish the house or the police would send in a bulldozer — and they would be charged for its use.

They were also told to clear all the rubble of my house within three days or face a heavy fine.

The British government says there is no evidence of ill-treatment of people sent back to Zimbabwe.

Do they not listen to the speeches from the Mugabe regime denouncing everyone that has sought asylum in Britain as “spies” and “traitors”?

The British government denounces Mugabe, but returns opposition activists to him.

My case is simple. In Zimbabwe I was a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition and helped them promote rallies.

A news report produced by the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation featured a pupil who said teachers were spreading MDC propaganda at the school where I taught.

Subsequently I became the subject of investigation and intimidation by Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation.

Abuse and physical threats by government supporters followed. That is why I fled here. I cannot even use my full name because I am worried about my relatives back in Zimbabwe.

At first it seemed I would be given asylum. But then early this year I was taken into detention and told that I would be deported on 28 January.

Only last-minute intervention by campaigners and my MP stopped me being returned to the torture chambers.

I then spent weeks in Campsfield and Dover detention centres before getting bail while awaiting a judicial review.

This was the case taking place this week.

I can be a useful member of society here. I am training to be a maths teacher, and was on placement at a school in Oldham before my detention.

The British government’s decision to continue deportations to Zimbabwe has led to a hunger strike by around 100 Zimbabweans held in detention across Britain.

There have been actions at Harmondsworth, Dover, Tinsley House, Haslar, Dungavel, Yarls Wood and Colnbrook.

I am glad that newspapers and politicians are now calling for an end to deportations.

But I admire more those, like the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns and Socialist Worker, who have been supporting me and others for much longer.

In January hundreds of Zimbabweans gathered outside the home office to call for a halt to deportations.

Not a single newspaper except Socialist Worker reported that protest.

During the general election campaign asylum seekers were demonised by many of the same people who now claim to care for them.

I urge all of you to join the fight for justice, for refugees from Zimbabwe and others in similar situations.

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