By Nyashadzashe Ndoro | Nehanda Diaspora |
A controversial charter flight arrived on Thursday at the Robert Mugabe International Airport with 14 Zimbabwean deportees deemed “Foreign Offenders” in the United Kingdom (UK).
The Zimbabwean government confirmed the returnees were taken to the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration and Management (ZIPAM) for quarantine.
“We welcome these fellow citizens home. They will be safe and the same opportunities availed to everyone else will be available to them.
“14 Zimbabweans arrived today. They have been taken to ZIPAM where they will have COVID-19 tests and quarantined for 10 days. After being Covid-19 cleared they will join their families and communities,” Information Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana said.
The flight was supposed to deport about 50 people but due to multiple legal challenges over concerns about the safety of returnees in Zimbabwe, a country associated with massive human rights violations, some had to wait.
It is also reported that a few hours before the flight took off, the UK Home Office was advised some of the returnees were self-isolating after an outbreak of Covid at Brook House near Gatwick where some of the Zimbabweans had been detained.
They are being deported because they have been convicted of several crimes including murder, rape, robbery among others.
Two days ago, Home Secretary Priti Patel was urged to halt the deportation by some MPs from the Labour Party. In their letter, the MPs cited gross human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and the outbreak of Covid-19 at one of the detention centres.
But Patel said the Zimbabwe nationals being deported were a danger to UK communities since they were categorised as foreign criminals. She added that the deportees had been provided with an opportunity to raise human rights claims or seek asylum before being deported.
“My key objective is to protect the public. It is longstanding Government policy to deport Foreign National Offenders to keep our communities safe and since January 2019 we have deported 7,985 foreign criminals from the UK.
“Deportation of foreign criminals is subject to several exceptions, including where doing so would be a breach of a person’s European Convention on Human Rights or the UK’s convention under the Refugee Convention.
“All those being deported on the flight will have been provided with an opportunity to raise claims including asylum and human rights claims, prior to their deportation,” Patel said.
“Individuals are only returned to their country of origin when the Home Office and, where applicable, the courts deem it is safe to do so.
“By definition, they do not need protection and are not at risk on return. Each individual assessment is made against the background of the latest available country of origin information and relevant case law.”
Patel said they were “unapologetic about the need to protect victims and remove dangerous foreign national offenders who have caused harm in the streets of the United Kingdom.” Nehanda Radio