Even after discounting the more questionable assertions by campaigners, disquieting questions remain about the deportation of 14 Zimbabweans from the UK last Wednesday.
The UK Home Secretary Priti Patel – haunted by her failure to curb illegal immigration – said the deportees had all been jailed for offences such as murder, rape, sexual abuse of children and robbery. It is difficult to challenge her decision in these cases (see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/51334235813/sizes/l/).
Patel said they had all been given the opportunity to raise asylum and human rights claims and that they were not at risk on return to Zimbabwe. Here the Home Secretary is on less secure grounds. She referred to ‘country of origin information’: this is an assessment of the situation by the Foreign Office which some people, including the Vigil, dispute in the case of Zimbabwe.
One prospective deportee succeeded in getting a last-minute High Court order preventing his removal. In his case the judge decided that anyone subjected to face to face interviews with Zimbabwean officials before being sent back could be at risk on return. These contentious interviews with Zimbabwean Embassy officials have been a matter of concern to Zimbabwean refugees for some time – reflected in the judge’s decision (see: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/zimbabwe-deportation-removal-home-office-uk-b1886446.html).
We understand that no one can be deported from the UK unless their country of origin will accept them and that it is quite legitimate for the UK Embassy in Harare to have talks about this with the Zimbabwean government. But we are disturbed by suggestions that not only blatant criminals will be sent back but also others.
Whatever the Foreign Office thinks, the Vigil does not believe that Zimbabwe is a safe place and we support the 75 British parliamentarians who signed a letter drafted by the All-Party Group on Zimbabwe raising concerns about what they say is a deteriorating political and human rights situation there. In a letter to the Home Secretary they wrote: ‘The Zimbabwe government is systematically oppressing its political opponents, denying freedom of speech and committing gross human rights violations.’ (See: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jul/22/legal-bids-mean-uk-deportation-flight-to-zimbabwe-takes-off-just-one-third-full.)
In Zimbabwe, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs ministry, Livit Mugejo, said the deportees were welcome home and would receive help with reintegration (see: https://www.herald.co.zw/uk-deports-zimbabwean-ex-convicts/.)
- GOOD NEWS! After not meeting since 14th March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the actual Vigil is starting up again. We hope to see many fellow activists outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London on Saturday 31st July from 2 – 5 pm. We have missed each other – it will be wonderful to catch up with everyone. It is still to be decided how often we will meet and on the Saturdays we don’t meet physically we will continue the virtual Vigil. This was started because of the Covid-19 restrictions and we ask our activists to put on Vigil / ROHR / Zimbabwe regalia and take a photo of themselves holding an appropriate poster reflecting our protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The photos are uploaded on our Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/albums/72157719599006147. Our virtual Vigil activists today were Dambudzo Marimira and Grace Munyanyi who both kindly contributed to Vigil funds.
- The UK has blocked the assets here of the Zimbabwean businessman Kudakwashe Tagwireyi, a close ally of President Mnangagwa. a government statement said he had also been banned from travelling here as part of Britain’s global anti-corruption sanctions targeting ‘corrupt individuals who have lined their own pockets through misappropriation, with their greed causing untold damage to the countries and communities they exploit’. (See: https://apnews.com/article/africa-health-zimbabwe-coronavirus-pandemic-harare-e8d528348b009be9d904b293f76143b7.)
- For Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.
- The first Vigil since lockdown started. Saturday 31st July from 2 – 5 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London.
- The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organisation based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organisation on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
- The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
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