A growing number of Zimbabwean asylum seekers in South Africa are reporting being refused refugee protection, amid fears that the decision to endorse the Zim elections has resulted in a change of immigration policy across the border.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma was one of the first regional leaders to openly congratulate Robert Mugabe’s highly contested electoral ‘victory’ last month. This show of support paved the way for the rest of the SADC region to also embrace Mugabe and endorse the elections.
In the weeks since the elections, an influx of Zimbabweans have been crossing the border into South Africa, with many said to be fleeing retribution for voting against Mugabe’s ZANU PF. Others have said they are fleeing a potential economic meltdown, such as the one witnessed during the last ZANU PF government, before the coalition that was formed in 2009 with the MDC.
In South Africa, there are concerns that an unofficial change of policy regarding Zimbabwean asylum seekers is being implemented. The refugee rights group PASSOP has said it is receiving more and more reports about Zim refugees whose statuses have been reviewed and rejected by the South Africa Department of Home Affairs. New asylum seekers are also being turned away.
Langton Miriyoga of PASSOP told SW Radio Africa that they have had “very high volumes’ of people contacting the organisation, after being told that their applications for refugee status would not be considered, on the basis that “there is no crisis in Zimbabwe.”
“We have also been told by people who have previously been granted refugee status that they are now being told to come in for a review of their status, in light of the political development in Zimbabwe,” Miriyoga said.
Miriyoga added: “We see it as unlawful in terms of the Refugees Act in South Africa and in terms of international law. South Africa can’t unilaterally revoke refugee protection without consulting the UN refugee agency.”
He said there are “very serious anxieties” among Zimbabweans in South Africa, mainly because of concern that mass deportations will be the next step.
“Zimbabweans are in a state of limbo now because they don’t know what is going to happen next,” Miriyoga said.