Zimbabwean asylum seekers file legal complaints against UK Home Office


The UK Home Office is currently facing a series of legal challenges after it facilitated the interview of Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK by officials from the government of Zimbabwe.

The British government has been criticised for working with the Zimbabwean state to accelerate the removal of asylum seekers after Robert Mugabe was forced from power, despite continuing human rights abuses in the country.

Zimbabweans seeking asylum in the UK, who fear persecution by the new government, were asked to attend Home Office centres across the UK, only to find officials from the government in Harare waiting to question them.

Lawyers acting on behalf of one of the applicants, Chishamiso Mkundi, 51, has applied for a judicial review after his asylum claim was rejected.

Granting permission for the review last month, judges said: “It is at least arguable that the respondent [the home secretary, Priti Patel]failed to consider whether her own actions, in inviting an official from the Zimbabwean embassy to an interview with the Home Office in December 2018, might have brought the applicant to the direct attention to the Zimbabwean authorities.”

Many asylum seekers from Zimbabwe sought refuge in the UK because of their anti-government protests or support for the country’s opposition. Their claims were often rejected on the basis that they were not of sufficiently high profile to come to the attention of the Zimbabwe authorities and thus risk being mistreated on their return.

Earlier this year, the high court granted permission for judicial review in a case of another asylum seeker, AG, who challenged the Home Office practice of interviewing asylum seekers whose claims had been rejected, and sharing their information with Zimbabwean government officials. A date for a hearing has been set in February.

AG’s lawyer, Rowan Pennington-Benton, said: “Our client is one of many asylum seekers told by the Home Office that it was safe for them to return, as they were not high profile and would slip under the radar upon arrival in Harare.

“The Home Office practice of highlighting the presence of these persons, and even allowing them to be interviewed by Zimbabwean officials, seriously and somewhat obviously undermines this.

“The practice is dangerous and from a Home Office policy perspective curiously self-defeating, as it provides failed asylum seekers with good grounds to resist removal.”

Mugabe’s government refused to cooperate with British attempts to return people to Zimbabwe, unlike the administration of his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Despite hopes that Mnangagwa’s government would bring political reform, human rights activists have condemned arbitrary arrests, abductions and beatings committed by the police and military. (Source: The Guardian)