|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Ministers insist Zimbabwe is safe
Conservative, Lib Dem and many Labour MPs have criticised the deportation policy - as 41 Zimbabweans in Britain remain on hunger strike in protest.
The controversy comes amid moves in Zimbabwe to demolish illegal buildings, which the UN says has left 275,000 people homeless.
EC head Jose Manuel Barroso said the country was causing "grave concern".
Mr Barroso, currently visiting South Africa, said he was disappointed with the reaction of the African Union to the crisis.
"I hope that Africans themselves can decide the way to go in terms of freedom and can see that freedom is not a foreign value," he said.
The ban on deportation to Zimbabwe was lifted in November last year.
In the first three months of 2005, 95 Zimbabweans were forcibly removed from the UK and 116 are scheduled to be returned to the country.
Shadow foreign secretary Dr Liam Fox said deportations should be stopped if proof showed deportees were mistreated by President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten labelled Mr Mugabe's government a "repressive regime".
While senior Labour MEP Richard Howitt demanded "urgent action" from the government, which he accused of turning a "blind eye" to the evidence.
But the Home Office said none of those who had been scheduled for removal were assessed to be in danger if sent back to Zimbabwe and they had no legal right to remain in the UK.
"Since returns were resumed to Zimbabwe last November, we have received no substantiated reports of abuse of any person returned to the country," said immigration minister Tony McNulty.
The argument came as Zimbabwean opposition leader Crispen Kulinji, who was due to be deported on Saturday, secured a last-minute reprieve - with the help of Labour MP Kate Hoey.
Mr Kulinji, 32, from Harare, an organising secretary and election co-ordinator for the Movement for Democratic Change opposition movement, is recovering from injuries he claims he sustained in jail in Zimbabwe.
He said he had been on hunger strike since Wednesday, adding: "We would rather live, but it is better to have a dignified death here than go back to face Mugabe."
He said he was sure to be killed if he was forced to return to Zimbabwe.
The Home Office said staff were monitoring the welfare of the hunger-strikers to ensure they received appropriate medical supervision.
A spokesman said strikes were taking place at the Harmondsworth detention centre at Heathrow; Yarlswood, in Bedfordshire; and Dover.