By Bethany Rielly | Morning Star |
Human rights groups have expressed grave concerns over the UK Home Office plans to deport 150 people to Zimbabwe next week, warning that their lives would be in danger.
The flight, scheduled for July 21, comes after the British government reportedly struck a secret deal with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime last month to deport hundreds of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers.
Zimbabwean community groups in Britain said they are horrified by the Home Office’s mass deportation plans given the country’s “atrocious human rights record.”
Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR) said the move was disturbing not only because it disregards the risk to deportees’ lives but also as “this development is pursuant to a bilateral arrangement between the notorious government of Zimbabwe and the government of the United Kingdom.”
The group said that abuses had worsened under the late Robert Mugabe’s successor, including cases of state-sanctioned murder, assault and torture of those critical of the ruling party.
But the Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation claims that the Home Office’s assessment of the conditions in Zimbabwe are based on the situation in 2016, with only a “few minor updates.”
ROHR added: “The clandestine nature of the operation and the speed at which it is being executed appears to be designed to give the victims little to no chance of access to legal representation.”
The Home Office has already rounded up and detained 150 Zimbabwe citizens for removal next week — the first charter flight to the country since 2019.
Campaigners told the Morning Star that they include people who have lived in Britain for decades, some of whom arrived as children, as well as political activists. The Home Office said that deportees are foreign criminals.
ROHR is among a number of groups considering legal action to halt the flight.
Human rights campaigner and Zimbabwean national Violet, who lives in Britain, warned that the risk for deportees is massive.
“Whatever deal the Home Office made with the Zimbabwean government — those people are not going to be safe at all,” she told the Star.
“One way or the other they will be persecuted if it’s not directly through the government or they [will] organise for these people to disappear or meet up with an accident. It’s happened before.”
Violet, who also works for the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), said the situation had worsened under its new leadership.
SYMAAG is holding a protest against the flight today outside the Home Office’s Vulcan House in Sheffield. Campaigners have described the mass deportation as “systemic racism.”
Rosie Huzzard of Walls Must Fall told the Star: “It appears that Priti Patel and her Home Office ministers are happy to strike deals with oppressive governments such as Zimbabwe to put the lives of people with well established lives in the UK at serious risk, just to make a bit of a splash in the news.
“Deporting 150 black Zimbabweans, many of whom were trade unionists and democracy campaigners – which is why they fled in the first place – is systemic racism. She is leading it.”
The Home Office said it only returns those who officials are satisfied do not need protection and have no legal basis to be Britain. A spokesperson said: “Foreign criminals who abuse our hospitality should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.”
Campaigners have launched a petition to stop the flight: https://www.change.org/p/uk-home-office-stop-the-charter-flight-deportations-to-zimbabwe