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Govt slams claim that rejected UK asylum seekers are at risk at home

[Zimbabwe] Aerial View of Harare.
Zimbabwe goes off line (IRIN)

The Zimbabwe government on Friday condemned a ruling by a British tribunal accepting that failed asylum seekers face persecution at home.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ruling by Britain's Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in a test case was as fraudulent as the unnamed failed asylum seeker's claim that he would be at risk if he were deported.

"This was a disastrous public relations attempt - its only purpose was to dirty Zimbabwe's name. Anyone who really comes from Zimbabwe knows that the so-called possibility of persecution, on which the judgment was based, does not exist," Chinamasa told IRIN.

"The British government was intent on using the hearing as a way of sending out more invitations to future false asylum claimants in Zimbabwe, so that it can revive and uphold its tired assertion that the government here is starving, killing or persecuting its own people for political ends," Chinamasa claimed.

The British government, which has come under domestic attack for lifting its ban on deportations to Zimbabwe, argued that asylum cases should be decided on their individual merit.

The BBC quoted Britain's immigration minister, Tony McNulty, as saying the tribunal's decision threw the government's asylum policy into question, and "leaves the entire system open to abuse".

Chinamasa insisted that hundreds of failed asylum seekers had been returned from Britain in recent years, and none had been arrested or persecuted.

A senior official of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told IRIN that he was not aware of examples of the detention of returnees from Britain.

"In a few cases people were questioned by the security services on arrival at the airport - I am not aware of anyone who was detained or brought before the courts for attempting to seek asylum," said the official, who declined to be named.

He said most of the people who claimed political asylum were highly educated economic refugees with no political links. He also noted that violence against members of the opposition had fallen since presidential elections in 2003.

"The political crisis has been well-documented, but it would be unfair and untrue of all those who leave the country to claim political asylum on the grounds of persecution," the human rights lawyer commented.

"There are hundreds of Zimbabwean activists inside the country who continue to demonstrate against the government and get arrested by the police. Nothing beyond the ordinary has happened to them and they are still here,” he added.

International human rights groups have been sharply critical of the government's track record, pointing to the use of the security forces to curb political dissent and the introduction of strict laws limiting freedom of assembly, association, and independence of the media.

A two-year-old ban on deportations from Britain was lifted last November.

Zimbabwean asylum seekers have been vocal on the policy change, and staged hunger strikes and public protests at immigration centres in the UK earlier this year.

Britain is now home to an estimated 12,000 Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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