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Zimbabwean refugee says ‘Join my fight for justice’

This article is over 17 years, 4 months old
LEONARD R, the Zimbabwean refugee whose case was recently highlighted in Socialist Worker, has been released on bail. He told us about what happened to him.
Issue 1939

IT IS obviously a huge relief to be free, even if there is still a long way to go before I can be secure. It has been a terrifying few weeks. On 14 January I went to the home office reporting centre in Manchester. I was required to go there regularly because my application for asylum had been refused.

At the asylum hearing I had explained that my life was in danger if I was returned to Mugabe’s regime. But they said that as I had not actually been tortured it was okay for me to go back. They also said that they believed I had got involved in opposition activity only when I came to Britain in order to find a cover for my claim.

This is completely untrue. At the reporting centre they said I had to speak to an official. They kept me waiting for nearly two hours and then I was taken into an office and told to empty my pockets.

I was searched and handed a removal order, which meant I could be deported. After four hours I was led to a truck and taken to Manchester airport. It was unreal. I had left my kids alone in the house because I thought it would just be a quick visit to the reporting centre. Suddenly I was on the fast track to Harare!

The next morning I was given the date of 29 January for my deportation. I was led out in handcuffs to a van to be taken to the Campsfield detention centre in Oxfordshire.

I was frantic. It was just fortunate that campaigners had begun to focus attention on my case. It was also taken up by Tony Lloyd MP. On 28 January, the day before I was due to be flown to Zimbabwe, I was told that there would be a judicial review of my case because of the interventions.

But I wasn’t released. Instead I was taken to the Dover removals centre. Conditions there were much worse than in Campsfield. It is simply an old prison full of asylum and immigration cases.

I applied for bail and a hearing was scheduled for Tuesday of last week. When we arrived at the court I was informed that I had actually been released the day before and that I should not have been there!

The authorities wanted to take me back to Dover to sort out the paperwork, but I managed to get freed in London. So now I am on temporary admission awaiting my judicial review.

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 on 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. Now elections are scheduled again in Zimbabwe. It will be a time of rising tension. It would be the very worst moment to be sent back.

Yet that is what would have happened if I had not received support from outside. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has helped me to avoid that fate, at least for the moment.

I can be a useful member of society here. I am training to be a maths teacher, and am presently on placement at Saddleworth school in Oldham. I hope to return there. I went to the committee meeting of the NUT teachers’ union in Oldham last week. Their support was wonderful.

They are sending details of my case to Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the union. They are also circulating a petition to other schools.

The more people realise the truth about cases like mine, the more they will realise that asylum seekers do not come here for an easy life. I am here because of the repression and torture at home. I cannot even use my full name because I am worried about my relatives back in Zimbabwe. Please join my fight for justice.

The Zimbabwe Community Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers (ZCCDAS), campaigns against forced removals. Contact [email protected] or phone 07960 126 028

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