Tribunal Lifts Blanket Ban On Deportation Of Zimbabweans

The government has won the right to deport failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe. The asylum and immigration tribunal ruling means up to 7,000 people who fled Robert Mugabe’s regime could be returned against their will. The tribunal reversed its decision of last year and yesterday ruled that failed asylum seekers would not automatically face persecution if returned to Zimbabwe. Last October the tribunal ruled against the policy after a failed asylum seeker, AA, won his appeal against the decision to deport him. That caused ministers to halt the forced removals.

But the blanket ban had to be reconsidered after the court of appeal ruled in April that the tribunal had “erred in law” in its initial decision

Yesterday Mr Justice Hodge said claimants linked with Zimbabwean opposition parties or with military or criminal records might be at greater danger of serious mistreatment during interrogation. The government was warned that each case would have to be decided on merit.

The tribunal’s ruling said: “If the reason for suspicion is that the deportee has a political profile considered to be adverse to the Zimbabwean regime, that is likely to be sufficient to give rise to a real risk of persecutory ill-treatment for a reason that is recognised by the refugee convention.”

The Home Office said more than nine in 10 claims for asylum from Zimbabweans had been judged to be unfounded in the first three months of this year.

Government figures show that 755 sought asylum from Mr Mugabe’s regime. But of 595 initial decisions, 55 Zimbabweans were granted asylum in the UK. The rest still have a right of appeal, and past trends suggest some will be successful.

A Home Office spokeswoman said enforced deportations to Zimbabwe may resume within weeks, after today’s test case brought by a Zimbabwean man who can only be identified as AA.

Human rights groups agree the situation in Zimbabwe for opponents of the Mugabe regime is dire.

The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, said: “We would always encourage individuals to return of their own accord, as 90 Zimbabweans have already this year, but where people do not leave voluntarily it is only right that we enforce their return.”

He said the ruling provided the basis to resume enforced returns .

Tim Finch, director of communications for the Refugee Council said: “The judgment doesn’t give a green light to mass removals and we hope the government will … put safety first.”