Zimbabwean refugees have told Socialist Worker of appalling treatment at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.
And, prevented by court decisions from deporting Zimbabwean asylum seekers, the authorities are now saying that some are actually citizens of other countries.
Siphthisiwe Bhebhe and her twin sister Sibongile came to Britain in 2002, fleeing the harsh repression of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.
To escape they travelled to South Africa where they bought travel documents to come to Britain. Because of this the British authorities have claimed the twins are “not really” Zimbabweans and should be expelled back to South Africa.
Siphthisiwe Bhebehe told Socialist Worker, “I have been in Yarl’s Wood for three months and one week, and the way I have been treated is very bad.
“The guards came for me when I had just come back from a shower. I had just a towel and my bra on when I was approached by guards. A manger said ‘grab her’ and nine men were on me.
“They grabbed me. I was screaming, but they didn’t stop. They grabbed my hair and pulled back my finger so I thought they would break it.
“They hurt my back and it still hurts. It was complete humiliation, a naked woman with nine men trying to drag her away.
“One of the managers told me, ‘This is a white person’s country, Africa is a black country and that is where you should be.’
“I have all the documents to prove I am Zimbabwean — my birth certificate, my ID, my mum’s ID, my father’s ID — all of them are Zimbabwean. I have a brother in Britain who the authorities accept is from Zimbabwe.
“I am afraid I will be deported to South Africa where I know nobody, and then maybe I will be sent back to the Mugabe regime.”
Noble Sibanda, from the United Network of Detained Zimbabweans in Britain, says, “Amnesty International, the UN human rights commission, NGOs and refugee organisations have made clear the fate which awaits asylum seekers who are returned to Zimbabwe.
“This is not a time to find new ways to deport Zimbabweans, it is time to halt all deportations.
“I want to thank all of those who have supported our struggle and in particular Socialist Worker and its readers.
“Please continue to exert pressure on the government to stop these deportations.”
Send messages of support to [email protected]