Asylum seekers from Zimbabwe by nyut545e2

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									                   Asylum seekers from Zimbabwe
                   Standard Note:    SN/HA/3391
                   Last updated:     13 March 2009
                   Author:           Gabrielle Garton Grimwood
                   Section           Home Affairs Section



Government policy towards asylum seekers from Zimbabwe – and especially towards
returning to Zimbabwe those whose applications have been refused – has for a number of
years proved contentious.

For nearly three years from 2002 the UK did not return failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.
This policy was revoked in November 2004 and, in 2005, 260 Zimbabwean failed asylum
seekers were removed from the UK. In the summer of 2005, dozens of Zimbabwean asylum
seekers in the UK staged a hunger strike and their cases were considered in the Asylum and
Immigration Tribunal (AIT) and the High Court. The Government stated that it would not
change its policy on removals, but the Home Office confirmed on 14 July 2005 that removals
would be suspended pending a judicial review hearing in the High Court. At that hearing, on
4 August 2005, Mr Justice Collins adjourned three test cases on the legality of returning
failed asylum-seekers so that the AIT could look at new evidence of conditions in Zimbabwe.
In the light of the court's decision, enforced removals of failed asylum-seekers continued to
be deferred and detention was reconsidered individually.

The Government says that each asylum application is dealt with on its own merits; the most
recent figures (for 2007) indicate that 19% of initial decisions on asylum claims from
Zimbabweans resulted in the applicant being allowed to stay in the UK, either as a refugee or
with discretionary leave. The leading case on returns to Zimbabwe is now that of RN
(promulgated in November 2008), in which the AIT concluded that the risk of persecution on
account of imputed political opinion was no longer restricted to those perceived to be
members or supporters of the MDC. The Government has recently (February 2009)
indicated that there is ‘no barrier to restarting returns for failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe’
and that ‘those found not to be in need of protection and who have not left the UK voluntarily
can expect to be returned’.

This note therefore examines some of the background to, and development of, Government
policy towards asylum seekers from Zimbabwe.
This information is provided to Members of Parliament in the performance of their
parliamentary duties, and may not fully address the specific circumstances of any particular
individual. It should not be relied upon by either Members or others as legal or professional
advice, or a substitute for it. If specific advice is needed, a suitably qualified professional
should be consulted. The website of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner
explains about the regulation of immigration advisers and includes a useful online ‘adviser
finder’: http://www.oisc.org.uk/adviser-finder/00-adviser-finder.asp. The Immigration Law
Practitioners' Association www.ilpa.org.uk may be able to suggest someone with experience
in this area from its list of specialist practitioners. The Immigration Advisory Service
www.iasuk.org/ provides advice and representation (which, if eligibility criteria for publicly
funded legal services are fulfilled, may be free of charge) and the Community Legal Service
website may also be helpful: www.clsdirect.org.uk.
Contents

1   2002 – 2004: The no-returns policy for Zimbabweans                               3

2   November 2004: The end of the no-returns policy                                  3

3   July 2005: Temporary suspension of removals                                      7

4   Policy since October 2005                                                       10

5   Summer 2008 onwards: Campaigns, interventions, developments in case law 13
    5.1    e-petition from the Britain Zimbabwe Society                             13
    5.2    Intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury                             14
    5.3    The case of HS                                                           14
    5.4    The case of RN                                                           15
    5.5    Returns to Zimbabwe after RN                                             18
           UKBA country guidance after RN and recent statements from the Home Office 18
           Refugee Council briefing on returns to Zimbabwe                          19

6   The risk of destitution? Support for asylum seekers and the right to work       20
    6.1    Support for asylum seekers                                               20
    6.2    Work and employment                                                      21

7   Country reports on Zimbabwe                                                     27

8   Handling asylum claims from Zimbabwe                                            29

9   Statistics                                                                      29




                                             2
1       2002 – 2004: The no-returns policy for Zimbabweans
For nearly three years (January 2002 to November 2004) the Government had a policy of not
returning asylum seekers to Zimbabwe even if they had failed to show that they were in need
of protection from persecution or torture. The then Home Secretary, David Blunkett,
announced the introduction of the policy on 15 January 2002, in the run-up to presidential
elections in Zimbabwe:

        After extensive consideration of all the available evidence and official advice, I have
        decided to suspend removals of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe until after the
        elections are held in March. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, with a
        view to re-appraising our position immediately after the elections are concluded.

        I want to stress that we will continue to assess each asylum claim made by those from
        Zimbabwe on its merits. I am committed to ensuring that we grant asylum to those
        genuinely at risk of persecution and torture, whilst refusing claims which do not have
        merit. Just in the last few months, we have granted refugee status to MDC activists,
        including teachers, nurses and journalists who have been beaten up and harassed by
        the ZANU-PF or CIO. These include those who have been fast tracked through the
        asylum process at Oakington in the last fortnight."

        Equally, we must recognise that the vast majority of those who have come to the UK
        from Zimbabwe over recent years do not have valid claims to asylum. Many claim to be
        MDC activists when they are manifestly not. A substantial number of those eligible for
        removal arrived well before the recent deterioration in circumstances, and failed
        asylum seekers have only been removed if independent adjudicators have rejected
                              1
        their asylum appeals.

In support of the Home Secretary’s claim that “the vast majority of those who have come to
the UK from Zimbabwe over recent years do not have valid claims to asylum”, the press
notice announcing the policy gave some figures on asylum applications from Zimbabwe:

        In 2000, there were 1,010 applications for asylum from Zimbabwe. In that period under
        normal procedures, 3% of asylum decisions on Zimbabwean cases resulted in the
        grant of asylum and 2% exceptional leave to remain. In 2001 to September (the latest
        period for which full statistics are available), there were 1,225 applications for asylum,
        and 1,440 case decisions, of which 5% were granted asylum, and 2% exceptional
        leave to remain. 2

These figures were based only on initial decisions and did not take account of appeals
against negative decisions.

Failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers who are not being removed are often left in limbo, as
they may not be given leave to remain and have no right to work. Some of those who are
destitute can however apply for the very limited ‘hard cases’ support under section 4 of the
Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

2       November 2004: The end of the no-returns policy
The no-returns policy continued well past Zimbabwe’s March 2002 elections but was finally
withdrawn on 16 November 2004, even though the then Minister, Des Browne, recognised

1
    Home Office press notice STAT001/2002, Home Secretary Suspends Removals To Zimbabwe, 15 January
    2002
2
    ibid



                                                    3
that there was no improvement in the situation in Zimbabwe. The no-returns policy was
considered to act as an incentive for people with no valid claim for asylum to come to the UK:

        It is clear that there are Zimbabweans in need of international protection from
        persecution. Our asylum system provides that and will continue to do so. We have
        continued throughout the period of the suspension of enforced returns to consider
        cases and grant asylum or other forms of protection to Zimbabweans where
        necessary. The latest asylum statistics published today show that at initial decision
        stage in the first nine months of this year we granted asylum to 195 Zimbabweans and
        some other form of protection to more than 25 others. But this was out of a total of
        2,025 decisions, meaning that very nearly 90 per cent. of claims were refused. 82 per
        cent. of subsequent appeals to the independent adjudicator were dismissed or
        withdrawn, the clear message is that the majority of Zimbabwean asylum applicants
        are able safely to return to Zimbabwe. We expect these individuals to leave voluntarily,
        and significant numbers have done so, but if they do not leave voluntarily we consider
        it entirely proper to seek to enforce their removal as we would nationals of any other
        country.

        While there has not been any improvement in conditions in Zimbabwe since enforced
        removal of failed asylum seekers was suspended, the proportion of claimants whose
        claims are not well-founded has increased markedly over the period of the suspension.
        It is clear that the absence of enforced returns increasingly acts as a "pull factor" for
        Zimbabweans, and for others posing as Zimbabweans, who do not need international
        protection but nonetheless make asylum claims confident that even when unsuccessful
        they will not be forcibly removed. This is a misuse of the asylum system. We are
        therefore today bringing our policy on returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers
        into line with that on every other country and ending the temporary suspension of
                                                                3
        enforced returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

This change in policy should not suggest (the Minister continued) that those who faced
persecution in Zimbabwe would no longer be protected in the UK:

        This change in asylum policy does not reflect any change in our categorical opposition
        to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. We will continue, bilaterally and with our
        international partners, to push the Government of Zimbabwe to end human rights
        abuses there, and restore democracy, so that all Zimbabweans can in time return
        safely to help build a prosperous and stable country. There is no doubt that political
        persecution, abuses of human rights and denial of basic freedoms persist in Zimbabwe
        and the asylum decision-making and appeal system will continue to ensure that
        Zimbabweans who face persecution and claim asylum in the UK will continue to
                                                        4
        receive the international protection they need.

When questioned on returns to Zimbabwe in January 2005, Des Browne repeated that there
were still Zimbabweans in need of international protection from persecution, but that the
asylum system would provide that protection in the same way as it did for other nationalities.
He was aware (he said) of the UNHCR’s position on returns to Zimbabwe but reiterated that
protection would be given only if proved on an individual basis:

        Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will
        make a statement on the recommendations made by the UN High Commissioner for
        Refugees that all removals to Zimbabwe should be suspended; [209611]



3
    HC Deb 16 November 2004 c78-WS
4
    ibid



                                                   4
        (2) what representations he has received on deportations of failed asylum seekers to
        Zimbabwe.

        Mr. Browne: We have received over 80 representations, mostly from members of the
        public, opposing the ending of the temporary suspension of enforced returns of failed
        asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.

        The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has based its recommendations on a broad
        assessment of conditions in Zimbabwe generally. Asylum and human rights decisions
        are not based on general conditions in a country, they are made case by case
        according to the risk that the individual applicant would face. Asylum and human rights
        claims by Zimbabwean nationals are considered on their individual merits in
        accordance with our obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the
        European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). As with any other nationality,
        Zimbabweans who meet the definition of a refugee in the 1951 Convention are granted
        asylum. If they do not qualify for asylum, but there are other circumstances that make
        them particularly vulnerable and engage our obligations under the ECHR, they are
        granted humanitarian protection or discretionary leave. If their application is refused,
        they have a right of appeal to the independent appellate authorities. In this way we
                                                                               5
        ensure that we provide protection to those Zimbabweans who need it.

        Each application is considered against the background of the latest available country
        information from a wide range of reliable sources including the United Nations High
        Commissioner for Refugees, other international organisations, non-governmental
        organisations, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the media. Decisions are
        based on the specific circumstances of the individual concerned. It is clear that there
        are Zimbabweans in need of international protection, but if an asylum and human
        rights claim is refused, and any appeal to the independent appellate authorities is
        unsuccessful, that means that it would be safe for that particular individual to return to
        Zimbabwe.

        Voluntary returns have continued throughout the period that enforced returns were
        temporarily suspended. There is no evidence to suggest that voluntary returnees or
        those whose return has been enforced since the suspension was ended have suffered
        any mistreatment on return.

Returns to Zimbabwe began immediately after the suspension was lifted. In the period 16
November to 31 December 2004 inclusive, 40 asylum applicants were removed to Zimbabwe
from the UK. 6 Removals continued in 2005: by the end of March 2005, a further 95
Zimbabwean asylum seekers had been removed. 7 (This includes persons who left the UK
under assisted voluntary return schemes organised by the International Organization for
Migration, and those persons who departed voluntarily after enforcement action had been
initiated). 8

The Zimbabwe policy was the last of several blanket no-returns policies in force over the
previous decade or so to end. The answer to a PQ in November 2004 gave information on
these policies:




5
    HC Deb 31 January 2005 c711-2W
6
    HC Deb 25 January 2005 c263W
7
    Home Office Asylum Statistics quarterly bulletin, 1st Quarter 2005 (2nd edition)
8
    Standard note SN/HA/3884 on assistance for asylum seekers returning to their own country discusses the
    IOM scheme



                                                      5
        Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for (a) which
        countries of origin and (b) what periods since 1997 it has been the policy of his
        Department not to enforce the return of failed asylum seekers. [193308]

        Mr. Browne [holding answer 25 October 2004]: Since 1997, the Home Office has had
        a policy of not enforcing the return of failed asylum seekers to the countries listed
        below, for the periods specified.

        Prior to October 2002, Exceptional Leave to Remain (ELR) was granted to asylum
        applicants from particular countries on a country basis. The blanket use of ELR for
        certain countries ended in October 2002 and since then the issue of return has been
        considered solely in terms of the individual circumstances of each case.

        Since the end of blanket ELR policies the only country for which there has been a
        general policy not to enforce the return of failed asylum seekers has been Zimbabwe.
        Enforced returns of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe were temporarily suspended
                                                            9
        between 15 January 2002 and 16 November 2004.

                    Country                       Period Specified

                   Afghanistan                    January 1995—October 2002

                   Angola                         August 1998—May 1999

                   Burundi(56)                    January 1997—October 2002

                   Congo                          November 1997—August 1998

                   (Congo-                        July 1999—July 2000
                   Brazzaville)

                   Cote d'Ivoire                  October 2000—9 April 2001

                   Democratic                     May 1997—May 1998
                   Republic   of
                   Congo                          August 1998—May 1999

                                                  January 2001—February 2001

                   Iraq(57)                       January      1997—September
                                                  2000

                   Kosovo                         June 1999—April 2000

                   Liberia                        October 1990—October 2002

                   Libya                          April 2000—October 2002

                   Rwanda(56)                     January 1997—August 2002

                   Sierra Leone                   June 1999—September 2001


9
    HC Deb 18 November 2004: Column 2050W



                                                 6
                        Somalia(57)                    January 1997—October 2002

                        Turkey                         July 1999—December 2000

                        Zimbabwe                       January      2002-16 November
                                                       2004


         (56)
                policy in place since 1994
         (57)
                policy in place since late 1980s

3        July 2005: Temporary suspension of removals
In March 2005 there was a general election in Zimbabwe. Following this, the government
there began a programme of mass evictions from informal settlements and businesses in
some urban centres. A Library Standard Note, Mass evictions in Zimbabwe: Operation
Murambatsvina (SN/IA/3715) describes this programme.

In June 2005 a hunger strike by dozens of detained Zimbabwean asylum seekers prompted
renewed calls from across the political spectrum, both within and outside Parliament, to halt
returns to Zimbabwe. The hunger strike started on 22 June when Crespen Kulingi, a
Zimbabwean opposition activist being detained at Campsfield House Immigration Removal
Centre (IRC) in Oxfordshire, was told he would be removed three days later. Other
Zimbabwean detainees at Harmondsworth detention centre at Heathrow, Yarlswood in
Bedfordshire and Dover joined the hunger strike. 10 Mr Kulungi’s removal was suspended
after interventions from Kate Hoey, 11 and he and a number of other hunger strikers were
later released on bail. 12

In a statement on 27 June 2005, the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, said that he and
the Foreign Secretary had considered whether to reinstate the suspension of forced
removals to Zimbabwe but concluded that there were not sufficient grounds to do so. The
Government would continue to review the situation, meanwhile assessing each case on its
merits and pushing for an end to human rights abuses there:

         We will examine with great care each individual case before removal and we will not
         remove anyone who we believe is at risk on their return […] We will also continue
         bilaterally and with our international partners to push the Government of Zimbabwe to
         end human rights abuses and to restore democracy, so that all Zimbabweans can, in
         time, return safely to help build a prosperous and stable country. 13

In his opinion, “The blanket suspension of all removals to any country can only encourage
those who seek to get around our controls for reasons nothing whatsoever to do with their
political activity or fear of persecution.” 14

The Government does not routinely monitor the treatment of returnees to any country. An
answer by Baroness Scotland in June 2005 appeared to suggest that its assessment of

10
     “Mass hunger strike against deportations to Zimbabwe”, Independent race and refugee news network 24 June
     2005
11
     “Cabinet revolt over Mugabe refugees”, Times 25 June 2005
12
     “Judge urges freeze on deportations to Zimbabwe”, Guardian 7 July 2005
13
     HC Deb 27 June 2004 Col 1023-4
14
     ibid c1023



                                                      7
whether or not failed asylum seekers were persecuted on their return to Zimbabwe rested
largely on five cases:

         Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, the Home Office Minister has said that there are no
         substantiated reports of ill treatment of individuals who have been removed to
         Zimbabwe. I would be grateful if the noble Baroness could tell us what constitutes a
         substantiated report.

         Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I said, we were given the names of five
         individuals. Those five individuals were contacted. Four of them responded and were
         spoken to. The fifth was asked to come to a meeting but for whatever reason did not
         attend. That is the extent of the substantiation that we have had. We have spoken to
         the five individuals, who verified that they had not been subject to persecution.

         We will of course take up as many issues as noble Lords or other agencies bring to our
         attention and deal with them as effectively as we can. However, we have to make our
         judgments on the evidence that we have and on the information that we determine to
                                                                                              15
         be sound. I can put before your Lordships only the information that we have to date.

Despite the then Home Secretary’s statement, Kate Hoey suggested that removals to
Zimbabwe had in fact been informally suspended on the same morning, until the G8 summit
was over:

         I heard on the rumour mill today that the Home Office had decided that it must be
         careful because the G8 summit was coming up. It does not want to change policy and
         go back to the pre-November policy, when there was a moratorium. The situation was
         okay until November. Nobody was being sent back, but suddenly, the policy changed.
         However, immigration officials have apparently been told this evening that there is a
         freeze on sending anyone back, to avoid the possibility of the public's becoming aware
                                                 16
         of such incidents in the next few days.

A Times editorial on 29 June 2005 called for Ministers to restore the moratorium on removals
to Zimbabwe, citing in support “an unusual combination of dissident Labour MPs, the
Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and media outlets normally anchored at different
ends of the ideological spectrum”. 17 A few of these comments were quoted in a subsequent
article:

         The Archbishop of Canterbury and former Labour leader Lord Kinnock joined the
         growing chorus of concern. Dr Rowan Williams said it would be "deeply immoral" to
         send failed claimants back to a country where they could face persecution and torture.
         Lord Kinnock said it would be better to let "a couple of dozen" unjustified claimants
         remain in Britain than risk sending back people who needed protection. 18

The Government continued to hold its position, saying that Zimbabwe was not the only
country to find itself in difficulties, and that asylum should be granted by making an
assessment of an individual applicant’s needs rather than on the basis of a blanket policy:

         Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, of course I accept that it would not be
         justified to return people who fall within the 1951 convention or in cases where the

15
     HL Deb 27 June 2005 Col 29
16
     HC Deb 27 June 2005 c1117. See also “Zimbabwe deportations halted until G8 summit”, Times 29 June
     2005
17
     “An exceptional case”, Times leader, 29 June 2005:
     http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,2734-1672811,00.html
18
     “Confusion over halt to Zimbabwe deportations”, Times 6 July 2005



                                                          8
         European Convention on Human Rights applies. We do not do so. We will not be
         removing anyone who would face persecution on return to Zimbabwe. Members of the
         opposition in Zimbabwe who establish that they have engaged in activities that will
         cause them to be persecuted by the Zimbabwean Government will have established
         that they have a well founded fear of persecution and will be in a position to make
         application and be granted asylum, so the question of their removal does not arise. I
         emphasise that the only people who will be removed will be those who do not have a
                                                                                              19
         well founded fear of persecution and therefore do not need international protection.

A Written Statement from the then Home Secretary on 6 July suggested that the
Government’s policy had still not changed, despite there being 33 detainees on hunger strike
at the time. 20

A High Court judge then called for the Government to suspend returns to Zimbabwe. In a
preliminary hearing on 6 July 2005, relating to four Zimbabweans facing removal, Mr Justice
Collins said that it was “arguable” that failed asylum seekers were in danger of being ill-
treated and abused in Zimbabwe and urged the Home Secretary to halt removals to
Zimbabwe pending the full hearing on 4 August 2005. Lawyers for the Home Secretary told
the judge that the Government had no evidence of any systematic abuse of failed asylum
seekers who were returned to Zimbabwe, but the Refugee Legal Centre (RLC)
representative said that there was such evidence. 21

The Refugee Council clearly considered that this statement from the judge meant that
returns to Zimbabwe had been stopped:

         This High Court decision reflects an obvious fact: that it is clearly unsafe to send
         anyone back to Zimbabwe in the current circumstances. We’ve been calling for the
         government to reinstate its moratorium on returns to Mugabe’s murderous regime,
         where human rights abuses are commonplace. It’s been clear that public support for
         this call has been growing. So we’re delighted that there’ll be no more deportations and
         that Zimbabweans terrified at the prospect of being sent back - including those on
                                                                22
         hunger strike - have had the threat of removal lifted.

On the same day, a Home Office reporting officer also said, during a bail application in the
Asylum and Immigration Tribunal by two detainees on hunger strike, that “returns have been
halted”. But the Home Office still insisted that the policy has not changed. 23

According to Mr Justice Collins, there were then between 70 and 80 applications before the
High Court involving Zimbabweans who were fighting removal on the grounds that they
feared for their lives, or that they would suffer inhuman or degrading treatment if returned to
Zimbabwe. 24      One of these cases was heard by Mr Justice Ouseley on 13 July 2005.
Following the judge’s comments, the Home Office decided on 14 July 2005 to suspend




19
     HL Deb 30 Jun 2005 cc318-20
20
     HC Deb 6 Jul 2005 c10WS
21
     “Judge urges freeze on deportations to Zimbabwe”, Guardian 7 July 2005
22
     Refugee Council, Statements on the plights of the Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers facing deportation, 6
     July 2005
23
     “Chaos over expulsions of Zimbabwe refugees”, Times 7 July 2005
24
     “Judge urges freeze on deportations to Zimbabwe”, Guardian 7 July 2005 “




                                                        9
forced removals to Zimbabwe “until August 4 when there is a test case”. 25 The hunger strike
was also suspended pending the 4 August hearing. 26

At the hearing on 4 August, Mr Justice Collins adjourned three test cases on the legality of
returning failed asylum-seekers so that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) could look
at new evidence from the Refugee Legal Centre about conditions in Zimbabwe and then
produce guidance for judges hearing asylum appeals. Mr Justice Collins said that the
detention of Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers should be reconsidered because there was
no prospect of immediate removal. 27

In light of the court's decision, the Home Office announced that deferral of enforced removals
of failed asylum-seekers would continue, until at least October, and that detention would be
reconsidered on a case-by-case basis. 28

4        Policy since October 2005
In December 2005, in response to two determinations by the Asylum and Immigration
Tribunal, Tony McNulty, the then immigration, citizenship and nationality minister, made a
statement to the House on the return of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. He suggested
that the Tribunal had been wrong to suggest that any Zimbabwean citizen unwilling to return
there was a refugee and that action should be taken according to the merits of each case.
Voluntary returns would continue (he said) and, meanwhile, the Home Office would be
appealing against the Tribunal’s findings:

         On 27 June my right honourable Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home
         Department made a statement on the return of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe and
         on 6 and 18 July he updated the House on that issue. I would like to provide a further
         update on returns to Zimbabwe.

         On 18 October the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal issued a determination in relation
         to the treatment of failed asylum seekers whose return to Zimbabwe was enforced.
         The Tribunal found that the particular way we were enforcing returns of failed
         Zimbabwean asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Harare airport put them at
         risk of mistreatment. The Tribunal has refused permission to appeal their determination
         so we will be seeking permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal. In the meantime,
         as we made clear at the time of the Tribunal determination, we will not be enforcing
         returns of Zimbabweans to Zimbabwe whilst we work to resolve the concerns identified
         by the Tribunal.

         On 16 November, the Tribunal issued a further determination. They concluded that the
         effect of the earlier determination is that any Zimbabwean citizen who will not return
         there willingly is a refugee even though the method by which we enforce returns is
         being reviewed. We strongly disagree with this conclusion and will also be seeking
         permission to appeal this determination or others which rely upon it. We shall continue
         to take decisions based on the individual merits of the claims.

         In its 18 October determination the Tribunal did not find that Zimbabwe was unsafe
         generally for failed asylum seekers or that those who return voluntarily are at risk.

25
     “Home Office halts Zimbabwe deportations”, Guardian 15 July 2005 and “UK suspends removals to
     Zimbabwe”, BBC news online 14 July 2005
26
     “Zimbabwe detainees suspend strike”, BBC news online 11 July 2005:
     http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4671537.stm
27
     “Zimbabwe removals still on hold”, BBC news online 4 August 2005
28
     “Asylum-seekers can stay while risk of return is measured”, Times 5 August 2005



                                                       10
         Voluntary returns to Zimbabwe are possible and are continuing. We therefore expect
         failed asylum seekers to return voluntarily to Zimbabwe and will assist them in doing so
         through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

         The Government remain deeply concerned about the political and economic crisis in
         Zimbabwe, in particular its appalling human rights situation, and continue to work with
         international partners to press for an end to abuses. 29

A month later, in answer to a parliamentary question, Tony McNulty reiterated the policy;
although the removal of failed asylum seekers was not being enforced, voluntary returns
were continuing:

         We have received representations from the public and from Members of both Houses
         regarding the situation of Zimbabweans who have been refused asylum. Most have
         been concerned primarily with the issue of enforced return of failed asylum seekers to
         Zimbabwe, with a number of these proposing that failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers
         be allowed to work in the UK "until it is safe for them to return to Zimbabwe". We have
         also received representations from UK voluntary sector organisations about support for
         failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers under section four of the Immigration and Asylum
         Act 1999.

         As I explained in my statement on 14 December 2005, Official Report, column 134WS,
         the recent Asylum and Immigration Tribunal determination did not find that Zimbabwe
         generally was unsafe for failed asylum seekers to return to or that voluntary returnees
         are at risk, only that the method by which we were at that time enforcing returns put
         enforced returnees at risk. As a consequence, we will not enforce the return of failed
         asylum seekers to Zimbabwe until we have addressed the concerns of the tribunal. In
         the meantime, voluntary returns to Zimbabwe are possible and are continuing. We
         therefore expect failed asylum seekers to return voluntarily to Zimbabwe and will assist
         them in doing so through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

         Asylum seekers from Zimbabwe who have been refused asylum can apply for support
         under section four of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Support is available under
         this provision to unsuccessful asylum seekers who are destitute and who satisfy one or
         more of a number of conditions, for example that the person is taking all reasonable
         steps to leave the UK, or to place himself in a position in which they are able to leave
                  30
         the UK.

A further statement was made in April 2006, following the decision of the Court of Appeal,
which had allowed the Home Office’s appeal against the AIT decision and had sent the case
back to the AIT for fresh consideration:

         The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): The
         Government have previously made statements on the return of failed asylum seekers
         to Zimbabwe on 27 June, 6 and 18 July and 14 December 2005. I would like to provide
         a further update.

         On 12 April the Court of Appeal allowed our appeal against two determinations of the
         Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT). The court found that the Asylum and
         Immigration Tribunal had erred in its approach to the evidence before it in finding that
         the particular way we were enforcing returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers to
         Harare airport put them at risk of mistreatment. The AIT's determination in that case
         has therefore been set aside and the AIT will consider the case afresh.

29
     HC Deb 14 Dec 2005 Col 153-4WS
30
     HC Deb 16 Jan 2006 Col 1009-10W



                                                   11
         We also welcome the Court of Appeal's further finding that a person who can safely
         return to their country of origin voluntarily is not a refugee. The Government remain
         deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and we are fully
         committed to providing protection to those who need it. For those who do, the asylum
         decision making and independent appeals system ensure that they get an appropriate
         form of protection, and the question of their removal does not arise. But it cannot be
         right that people who would face no risk if they returned to their country of origin
         voluntarily should, because they refuse to do so, be entitled to the same status as
                                                           31
         people who have a genuine fear of persecution.

Until the case had been reconsidered by the AIT, enforced departures to Zimbabwe would
not (the minister said) be enforced:

         In line with our original undertaking to the High Court, we will not be enforcing returns
         to Zimbabwe pending the further hearing the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal is now
         required to hold. However, we continue to expect those who have exhausted their
         rights of appeal and been found not to need international protection to leave the UK
         voluntarily. We can if required assist them in doing so through the International
         Organization for Migration (IOM).

         Since the tribunal hearing of October 2005, we have been reviewing our methods of
         return, and have continued to build upon our already strong networks and relationships
         with NGOs, international organisations and civil society on the ground in Zimbabwe to
         strengthen our capacity to monitor the treatment of both enforced and voluntary
         returnees.

The Court of Appeal had ruled that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal had erred in law:

         The decision does not mean the expulsion of Zimbabweans will begin immediately but
         it could follow the next tribunal meeting, in two months’ time.

         Maeve Sherlock, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said she was dismayed
         by the ruling. “We should not underestimate the dangers they face – people fleeing to
         the UK are seen as traitors, and a conviction for treason in Zimbabwe can carry the
         death penalty”. 32

Also in April 2006, in response to further questions from John Bercow, the then Foreign
Office minister Ian Pearson stated that the Government still had concerns about the human
rights situation in Zimbabwe but did not believe that failed asylum seekers returned there
were systematically abused:

         The human rights situation in Zimbabwe remains of great concern. We will continue to
         pressure the Government of Zimbabwe to restore respect for democratic values,
         human rights and the rule of law.

         […]

         We continue to assess that individuals repatriated from the United Kingdom are not
         systematically singled out for abuse by the Zimbabwean authorities. Our embassy in
         Harare maintains close and regular links with Zimbabwean and international human
         rights non-governmental organisations, and other relevant institutions, to ensure that
         we are in the best possible position to know and take appropriate action if there are
         any genuine cases of failed asylum seekers being mistreated on their return.


31
     HC Deb 20 April 2006: Column 29-30WS
32
     ‘Clarke wins court battle to deport Zimbabweans’ Independent’ 13 April 2006



                                                       12
         We remain concerned at widespread human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. We will
         continue to provide protection to those individuals who genuinely need it through the
         asylum process. 33

5    Summer 2008 onwards: Campaigns, interventions, developments in
case law
5.1      e-petition from the Britain Zimbabwe Society
In June 2008, the Government responded to an e-petition – submitted by the Britain
Zimbabwe Society and attracting 2003 signatures - which had asked that the current
suspension on forced removal to Zimbabwe should remain in place. The No 10 website set
out the Government’s response to that petition:

         The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is not currently enforcing returns of unsuccessful
         asylum seekers to Zimbabwe pending the final resolution of the Asylum and
         Immigration Tribunal (AIT) ‘country guidance’ case of ‘HS’. Having examined a great
         deal of evidence, the AIT has found that unsuccessful asylum seekers who are
         returned to Zimbabwe will not be at risk of mistreatment simply because they have
         claimed asylum in the UK, or otherwise been in the UK for an extended period. UKBA
         believes the AIT’s determination to be correct and expects shortly to be in a position to
         enforce the return of those unsuccessful Zimbabwean asylum seekers who have been
         found not to need the protection of the UK yet refuse to leave voluntarily.

         This decision does not affect the position of those Zimbabweans who have established
         that they would be at real risk of mistreatment for political or other reasons if they
         returned to Zimbabwe. They will be granted asylum or other appropriate form of
         protection and for them the question of enforced return does not arise. But it cannot be
         right that those who have been found not to be at risk, and not to need international
         protection, should be allowed to remain in the UK when they are not entitled to do so.

         For most of the time since 2005 UKBA, in accordance with undertakings given in the
         High Court, has not enforced the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.
         During this time, many thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans have continued to travel
         back and forth between the UK and Zimbabwe and several hundred Zimbabwean
         unsuccessful asylum seekers have voluntarily returned to Zimbabwe without
         encountering significant difficulties.

         Accordingly, although enforced returns will continue to be deferred until ‘HS’s
         application to appeal the AIT’s determination is finally disposed of, thereafter it is the
         Government’s intention to resume enforced returns to Zimbabwe. In the meantime,
         UKBA will continue to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe very closely and the final
         decision when to resume enforced returns will take full account of the situation at that
         time.

         Zimbabwe remains a priority for the Government, and we will continue to do everything
         we can to ensure a better future for Zimbabweans, but we do not believe that the
         asylum system is the appropriate way to achieve that. The people of Zimbabwe have
         been struggling under appalling conditions for many years and will continue to do so
         until there is a change of policy from the government of Zimbabwe.

         The UK has been engaged in assisting ordinary Zimbabweans by contributing heavily
         to humanitarian relief operations. We are the second largest bilateral donor to
         Zimbabwe, giving approximately £49 million in 2007 and more than £200 million since


33
     HC Deb 26 April 2006: Col 1159-60W



                                                    13
         2000. UK aid currently keeps over 1.5 million people alive. The UK also provides
         substantial resources to support those working in the areas of human rights and
         democratic freedoms, and we will continue to support them just as we will continue to
         make representations to the Government of Zimbabwe when those who advocate
         reform are beaten and arrested. All UK funding is channelled through the United
         Nations and non-governmental organisations, and not the government of Zimbabwe, to
         ensure that this aid is not abused. 34

5.2      Intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The arguments over whether failed asylum seekers should be returned to Zimbabwe in came
to the fore again when in June the Archbishop of Canterbury said it would be ‘deeply
immoral’ to return people to countries where their lives would be in danger, such as
Zimbabwe, and described the asylum system as ‘deeply unsatisfactory’. 35

5.3      The case of HS
Early in July 2008, the Court of Appeal granted a stay in the case of HS, pending a decision
in the House of Lords in another case which, Buxton L remarked, might be relevant to HS
and also touched on issues of the reasonableness (or not) of the Home Secretary’s decision
and the risks of breaches of Article 3:

         5. Since the grounds were settled and since the Lord Justice gave his determination,
         there has been a further development which I must attempt briefly to explain. This goes
         back to a case heard by this court on appeal from the Special Immigration Appeals
         Commission, heard in July of last year, then called MT (Algeria) v SSHD [2008] 2 WLR
         1835 at page 159. That case concerned the return, or proposed return, to Algeria of
         various persons seeking protection in this country. Amongst the many issues that were
         debated was the question of whether there would be a breach in that case of Article 3
         of the Human Rights Convention by reason of one, at least, of those returning being
         threatened with torture should he return to Algeria. Now it will be clear that if that threat
         was made good – that is to say, if there was a risk that that person would be tortured
         on return to Algeria – then there would be a threatened breach of Article 3 and, under
         the accepted jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and indeed of this
         jurisdiction in the case of Chahal, return would not be possible.

         6. The dispute was in that respect about whether there was in fact a risk of torture,
         and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, having gone into the facts, held that
         that was not going to be the case. Therefore the Article 3 complaint failed.

         7. Before this court, which had, in that matter, as in the present, jurisdiction in respect
         only of issues of law, it appeared at first sight that SIAC's conclusion could only be
         overturned if it had reached its conclusions on a Wednesbury irrational basis -- the
         same basis that was alleged in the grounds of appeal in this case. However, in the
         appeal in MT things took a different turn, and the appellants argued -- and there has
         been some discussion this morning about what in fact they argued in detail -- but I am
         fairly confident in saying that the essential way in which the argument of the appellants
         in MT departed from the previous jurisprudence was that they contended that, in a
         case involving human rights convention issues, an appellate court, even if within the
         domestic legal order its jurisdiction was limited to issues of law, should nonetheless
         review the conclusions reached on matters of fact by the lower court in order to
         determine whether those were correct: as opposed to being limited to simply


34
     Zimbabwe HS Ruling – E-petition Reply 24 June 2008
35
     ‘Archbishop intervenes in Zimbabwe asylum row’ Guardian 28 June 2008



                                                      14
         considering whether those conclusions had been reached by methods that exhibited
         irrationality. 36

The decision in respect of HS was therefore deferred.

Also in July 2008, Lord West, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Home Office in
the Lords, again said that the Government would give protection to anyone who needed it,
although it would still help those who wished voluntarily to return to Zimbabwe. 37 It was
reported in The Guardian, however, that the Home Office continued to send letters telling
Zimbabwean asylum seekers whose claims had been rejected that they should leave the UK:
it was also suggested that up to 11,000 refused Zimbabwean asylum seekers, threatened
with removal from the UK, would be left destitute. 38

5.4      The case of RN
In a decision in another case - that of RN, promulgated in November 2008 39 - the Asylum and
Immigration Tribunal observed that:

         Those at risk on return to Zimbabwe on account of imputed political opinion are no
         longer restricted to those who are perceived to be members or supporters of the MDC
         but include anyone who is unable to demonstrate support for or loyalty to the regime or
         Zanu-PF. To that extent the country guidance in HS is no longer to be followed. 40

On recent political events in Zimbabwe, the Tribunal noted:

         Although a power sharing agreement has been signed between Mr Mugabe on behalf
         of Zanu-PF and Mr Tsvangirai on behalf of the MDC, the evidence presented does not
         demonstrate that the agreement as such has removed the real risk of serious harm we
         have identified for anyone now returned to Zimbabwe who is not able to demonstrate
         allegiance to or association with the Zimbabwean regime.

         General country conditions and living conditions for many Zimbabwean nationals have
         continued to deteriorate since the summer of 2007. Some may be subjected to a
         complete deprivation of the basic necessities of life, for example access to food aid,
         shelter and safe water, the cumulative effect of which is capable of enabling a claim to
         succeed under article 3 of the ECHR. But that will not always be the case and each
         claim must be determined upon its own facts. 41

The Tribunal considered the status of existing country guidance 42 and whether this was an
appropriate time for country guidance in respect of Zimbabwe to be reconsidered. 43 It heard
from numerous witnesses, including the chief representative of the MDC in the UK 44 and the


36
     [2008] EWCA Civ 915
37
     HL Deb 21 July 2008 : Column WA212
38
     Jamie Doward ‘UK is sending 11,000 Mugabe refugees back: Zimbabweans who fled regime are being sent
     Home Office letters telling them to return’ The Guardian 6 July 2008
39
     RN had been a teacher in Zimbabwe and claimed asylum the day after arriving in the UK, arguing that as she
     had not been an active support of Zanu-PF she would be assumed to be a supporter of the opposition and
     would be victimised if returned to Zimbabwe. Her appeal against the removal decision accompanying refusal
     of her asylum claim was dismissed by the immigration judge, but reconsideration was ordered because the
     immigration judge had declined - on the basis that involuntary returns to Zimbabwe had been suspended - to
     determine the appeal on human rights grounds. That was held to be an error in law.
40
     RN (Returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2008] UKAIT 00083: Headnote para 1
41
     Ibid: Headnote paras 4-5
42
     Ibid: Determination and Reasons: para 13ff
43
     Ibid: para 27ff
44
     Ibid: para 62ff



                                                      15
emeritus professor of African history at the University of Oxford. 45 It also received
documentary evidence from non-governmental organisations and human rights
organisations. 46

In its general conclusions, the Tribunal remarked that Robert Mugabe and those to whom he
looks for support had ‘consistently acted ruthlessly to suppress all effective opposition’. 47
Even though a power-sharing agreement had been reached, it remained to be seen whether
those who could not demonstrate loyalty to Zanu-PF would be at any lesser risk. 48

The Tribunal also identified some broader questions of assessing risk and whether failed
asylum seekers returning to Zimbabwe were at risk by reason of that alone:

          224. A number of questions need to be addressed:

              a. On the basis of the current evidence, what is the extent of the category of
              persons at risk in Zimbabwe today?

              b. Is a failed asylum seeker returning from the United Kingdom at risk on that
              account alone?

              c. Does that risk arise equally in the returnee’s home area and in a place of re-
              establishment within Zimbabwe where he or she is not previously known?

              d Does the returnee face a real risk of persecution or article 3 ill-treatment on
              return to Harare airport (or any other airport) at the hands of immigration officers,
              CIO officers or other “formal” state agents?

              e Do country conditions in themselves give rise to a real risk that a returnee will
              have to live in conditions sufficiently poor as to infringe article 3?

The Tribunal concluded that - for people unable to demonstrate membership or support of
Zanu-PF or loyalty to the regime - there was a real risk of ill-treatment amounting to
persecution and serious harm such as to infringe Article 3 of ECHR:

          The answer to the first of those questions will be apparent from what we have said
          above. A person who is unable to demonstrate that he is a member or supporter of
          Zanu-PF or otherwise loyal to or associated with the regime when asked to do so by
          any of the various groups deployed across the country by the Zimbabwean regime to
          maintain its authority and hold on power will be at real risk of being subjected to ill-
          treatment amounting to persecution and serious harm such as to infringe article 3 of
          the ECHR.

          That risk arises throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas. A person may
          be faced with the need to demonstrate such loyalty to the ruling party in varying
          circumstances. The youth militias, “War Veterans” and other groups put together under
          the direction of the state authorities have established camps or bases throughout the
          country from which they operate. Although the evidence suggests that some of those
          camps or bases have closed down after the run off vote in July of this year it is plain
          that many remain and that they are to be found throughout the country in both rural
          and urban areas. Ordinary Zimbabwean citizens may encounter these groups at road



45
     Ibid: para 91ff
46
     Ibid: para 125ff
47
     Ibid: para 204
48
     Ibid: para 222



                                                     16
         blocks set up to establish no go areas or simply when at home as the militias move into
         areas thought to harbour MDC support. 49

The Tribunal further concluded that, generally, being a failed asylum seeker would not put
the person at risk for that reason alone, although it might in some instances:

         It remains the position, in our judgement, that a person returning to his home area from
         the United Kingdom as a failed asylum seeker will not generally be at risk on that
         account alone, although in some cases that may in fact be sufficient to give rise to a
         real risk. Each case will turn on its own facts and the particular circumstances of the
         individual are to be assessed as a whole. If such a person (and as we explain below
         there may be a not insignificant number) is in fact associated with the regime or is
         otherwise a person who would be returning to a milieu where loyalty to the regime is
         assumed, he will not be at any real risk simply because he has spent time in the United
         Kingdom and sought to extend his stay by making a false asylum claim. 50

On country guidance, the Tribunal therefore concluded:

         The evidence establishes clearly that those at risk on return to Zimbabwe on account
         of imputed political opinion are no longer restricted to those who are perceived to be
         members or supporters of the MDC but include anyone who is unable to demonstrate
         support for or loyalty to the regime or Zanu-PF. To that extent the country guidance in
         HS is no longer to be followed. 51

         (…)

         Although a power sharing agreement has been signed between Mr Mugabe on behalf
         of Zanu-PF and Mr Tsvangirai on behalf of the MDC, it is too early to say that will
         remove the real risk of serious harm we have identified for anyone now returned to
         Zimbabwe who is not able to demonstrate allegiance to or association with the
         Zimbabwean regime.

         Further international intervention or some unforeseen upheaval inside Zimbabwe itself
         may change the position, for example, by giving the MDC real control of the police. In
         such an eventuality it will be for judicial fact finders to determine the extent to which the
         evidence before them differs from that which is before us, pending fresh country
         guidance: see Practice Direction 18.2. 52

The Tribunal found that RN had established a well-founded fear that she would be
persecuted for a reason recognised by the Refugee Convention; there was a real risk that
she would be subject to ill-treatment which would infringe Article 3 of ECHR:

         Persecutory ill-treatment on return to Zimbabwe may take one or more of a number of
         forms. On being identified as someone not able to demonstrate loyalty to the ruling
         party she may find herself taken to one of the camps established by the militias where
         there is a real risk she would be detained and molested, physically and sexually. She
         may face physical ill treatment in the course of being displaced from her home area
         and similar treatment in any other area, urban or rural, in which she seeks to re-
         establish herself. There is no reason to suppose that she would fare any better than




49
     Ibid: para 225-6
50
     Ibid: para 230
51
     Ibid: para 258
52
     Ibid: paras 263-4



                                                      17
          her sister who fled with her family to South Africa to avoid the adverse attention of
          Zanu-PF supporters. 53

This, the Tribunal said, was sufficient to explain why the appeal was allowed. 54

5.5       Returns to Zimbabwe after RN
UKBA country guidance after RN and recent statements from the Home Office
The UKBA country assessment for Zimbabwe, last updated in December 2008, again states
that individual asylum applications should be considered on their merits. The guidance note
describes the implications of the case of HS and RN for returns to Zimbabwe:

          Returns

          5.1 Factors that affect the practicality of return such as the difficulty or otherwise of
          obtaining a travel document should not be taken into account when considering the
          merits of an asylum or human rights claim. Where the claim includes dependent family
          members their situation on return should however be considered in line with the
          Immigration Rules, in particular paragraph 395C requires the consideration of all
          relevant factors known to the Secretary of State, and with regard to family members
          refers also to the factors listed in paragraphs 365- 368 of the Immigration Rules.

          HS (returning asylum seekers) Zimbabwe CG [2007] UKAIT 00094 Failed asylum
          seekers do not, as such, face a risk of being subjected, on return to Zimbabwe, to
          persecution or serious ill-treatment. That will be the case whether the return is
          voluntary or involuntary, escorted or not.

          The findings in respect of risk categories in SM and Others (MDC – Internal flight – risk
          categories) Zimbabwe CG [2005] UKIAT 00100, as adopted, affirmed and
          supplemented in AA (Risk for involuntary returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2006] UKAIT
          00061 are adopted and reaffirmed. The Tribunal identifies one further risk category,
          being those seen to be active in association with human rights or civil society
          organisations where evidence suggests that the particular organisation has been
          identified by the authorities as a critic or opponent of the Zimbabwean regime.

          The process of screening returning passengers is an intelligence led process and the
          CIO will generally have identified from the passenger manifest in advance, based upon
          such intelligence, those passengers in whom there is any possible interest. The fact of
          having made an asylum claim abroad is not something that in itself will give rise to
          adverse interest on return.

          The Tribunal adopts and reaffirms the findings in AA in respect of the general absence
          of real risk associated with any monitoring of returnees that might take place after such
          persons have passed through the airport and returned to their home area or re-
          established themselves in a new area.

          RN (Returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2008] UKAIT 00083 It is the CIO, and not the
          undisciplined militias, that remain responsible for monitoring returns to Harare airport.
          In respect of those returning to the airport there is no evidence that the state authorities
          have abandoned any attempt to distinguish between those actively involved in support
          of the MDC or otherwise of adverse interest and those who simply have not
          demonstrated positive support for or loyalty to Zanu-PF. There is no reason to depart
          from the assessment made in HS of those who would be identified at the airport of


53
     Ibid: para 270
54
     Ibid: para 271



                                                      18
         being of sufficient interest to merit further interrogation and so to be at real risk of harm
         such as to infringe either Convention.

         The Tribunal found in HS that the well resourced, professional and sophisticated
         intelligence service that is the CIO would distinguish, when dealing with those returning
         as deportees from the United Kingdom, between those deportees in whom there was
         some reason to have interest and those who were of no adverse interest simply on that
         account. This was an intelligence led process informed by record keeping in Zimbabwe
         and information from operatives sent to the United Kingdom to infiltrate MDC groups
         active there. The risk categories were clearly identified and there was evidence that
         those not falling into such were able, generally, to pass through the airport without real
         difficulty.

         5.2 Caseworkers and case owners should continue to consider claims on their merits
         and grant asylum if the applicant establishes a well-founded fear of persecution and is
         not excluded from protection. Consideration of Humanitarian Protection or
         Discretionary Leave should be carried out in accordance with normal policy. 55

In a written answer in the Lords in February 2009, Lord West (the Parliamentary Under
Secretary of State at the Home Office) stated that, although returns to Zimbabwe were not
currently being enforced, failed asylum seekers who were not in need of protection could
expect to be returned:

             We announced in September 2006 that we would be halting enforced returns to
             Zimbabwe and we are not currently enforcing the return of Zimbabwean
             nationals.

             The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal recently found that there is no barrier to
             us re-starting enforced returns for failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. Since
             2006 hundreds of Zimbabweans have voluntarily returned home. Those found
             not to be in need of protection and who have not left the UK voluntarily can
             expect to be returned. 56

Officials within UKBA have also provided a further statement, in which they reiterate that
asylum seekers whose applications are refused can expect to be returned:

         Those who fall to be refused will be expected to return home. Those who do not do so
         can expect to be returned. In this context we welcome the tribunal's confirmation that
         there is no barrier to us re-starting returns for failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. We
         will of course always take account of the political and humanitarian factors. 57

Refugee Council briefing on returns to Zimbabwe
In the light of the case of RN, the Refugee Council published in November 2008 a briefing on
returns to Zimbabwe, which considers the implications of the RN judgement:

         Likely impact on existing cases

         If a failed asylum seeker can now establish that s/he will not be able to demonstrate
         loyalty to the regime, then that could be the basis of a fresh asylum claim. A significant
         number of those who have been refused asylum should now benefit from this decision,
         particularly those who have been in the UK for some time.



55
     Operational Guidance Note: Zimbabwe v4 1 December 2008
56
     HL Deb 23 February 2009 Col WA7
57
     Personal communication 24 February 2009



                                                      19
         For all those cases still in the system, RN will provide the basis on which they should
         now be reconsidered, either by the UKBA or whichever court currently has their case.
         We assume that those cases in the High Court and Court of Appeal will now be sent
         back to the Tribunal to reconsider.

         UKBA undertaking not to enforce removals to Zimbabwe

         UKBA has given an undertaking not to resume enforced removals until the previous
         case HS is resolved.9 HS remains to be resolved due to a technical legal point relating
         to the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal and the outcome of HS will be decided in the
         context of a similar case, MT, RB and U v SSHD 2007 EWCA Civ 80, that is now
         before the House of Lords.

         What to do if you think you may be affected by this judgement.

         Seek legal advice. 58

6    The risk of destitution? Support for asylum seekers and the right to
work
6.1      Support for asylum seekers
Guidance on the UK Border Agency website, last updated in November 2008, describes so-
called ‘section 4 support’ for refused asylum seekers:

         All asylum seekers whose applications have been refused and whose appeal rights are
         exhausted are required to leave the UK. It is accepted that there will be some refused
         asylum seekers who are destitute and unable to leave the UK immediately due to
         circumstances beyond their control. In these circumstances the refused asylum seeker
         can request the provision of support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
         1999 (IAA 1999). 59

The guidance makes specific reference to the situation of refused asylum seekers from
Zimbabwe:

         10) Zimbabwean Refused Asylum Seekers

         57. Why were enforced removals of Zimbabwean nationals suspended?

         We are currently deferring enforced removals to Zimbabwe pending the outcome of an
         Tribunal Service test case looking into the question of whether enforced returnees to
         Zimbabwe would be at risk on return simply because they have sought asylum in the
         UK. Enforced removals of refused asylum seekers to Zimbabwe will continue to be
         deferred pending the outcome of the Zimbabwean test case. We continue to expect
         Zimbabweans who have no right to remain in the UK to return to Zimbabwe voluntarily.

         58. Can Zimbabwean nationals return voluntarily to Zimbabwe?

         Refused asylum seekers can and do return to Zimbabwe voluntarily. The Tribunal
         Service has not found that Zimbabwe is unsafe generally for returning refused asylum
         seekers, or that those who return voluntarily are at risk. We continue to expect those
         asylum seekers who have exhausted their rights of appeal and been found not to need
         international protection to leave the UK voluntarily. Based on Immigration Research



58
     Refugee Council Briefing: Zimbabwe Update November 2008
59
     UK Border Agency Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 Q&A Version 9 12 November 2008



                                                    20
         and Statistics figures, between 1 January 2006 and 31 March 2007, 305 Zimbabweans
         returned to Zimbabwe voluntarily.

         59. Can Zimbabwean refused asylum seekers access section 4 support?

         Zimbabwean refused asylum seekers can seek the provision of support under section
         4 subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, for example by signing up with the IOM to
         make a voluntary return.

         60. How are voluntary returns for Zimbabwean nationals arranged?

         The VARRP programme is administered in both the UK and Zimbabwe by the IOM.
         Returnees elect whether they wish to be met at Harare airport or not; the IOM has
         reported that most do not, preferring to be met by family or friends. Onward domestic
         transportation will be funded, or IOM London will book an internal flight from Harare to
         the final destination.

         61. How is reintegration assistance provided for Zimbabwean nationals?

         The IOM office in Harare provides full reintegration assistance to those who return
         under VARRP. This includes helping people start up in business and assisting with
         education needs for both adults and children. 60

A pilot project, under which the reintegration package available to those returning to
Zimbabwe would be ‘enhanced’, was launched in February 2009. In a reply to a PQ,
Immigration minister Phil Woolas described the assistance which would be made available:

         Zimbabweans have continued to return home voluntarily. Each returnee has been
         eligible for the basic voluntary assisted return and reintegration package to assist with
         their reintegration needs on return. This programme is implemented by the
         International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

         We recognise that the economic situation within Zimbabwe presents major challenges
         to Zimbabwean returnees. In order to make a more effective contribution to sustainable
         return it was decided that with effect from 1 February 2009 the reintegration assistance
         available would be enhanced as follows:

             A relocation grant increased from £500 to £1,000. This is given in sterling at the
             airport, before departure, where it can be converted into US dollars.

             An in-kind business set-up grant increased from £2,000 to £3,000. £2,500 worth of
             assistance will be available initially to obtain supplies and a further £500 will be
             available after a six month review of individual circumstances.

             Health education and advice as well as a supply of water purification tablets and a
             basic commodities and dry goods package.

         The enhancement will be implemented for six months as a pilot project. 61

6.2      Work and employment
The UKBA’s asylum support bulletin covering work and voluntary activity is available on its
website. 62



60
     ibid
61
     HC Deb 25 February 2009 : Col 868-9W



                                                    21
Asylum seekers are not currently permitted to work. In March 2006, however, Tony McNulty
made a speech at the Refugee Council at which (it was reported) he had suggested that
failed asylum seekers who could not return to their own country might be permitted to work:

         New-generation voice recognition technology is to be used to keep tabs on failed
         asylum seekers facing deportation, the immigration minister, Tony McNulty, disclosed
         yesterday. He also revealed that failed asylum seekers who cannot be sent back to
         countries such as Somalia and Zimbabwe may be allowed to work in Britain on a
         temporary basis.

          […]

         He also acknowledged concerns about failed asylum seekers who could not be sent
         back to unsafe countries such as Zimbabwe and Somalia. They are receiving state
                                                63
         benefits far below the regular levels.

In the debate in the Lords in October 2007 on the amendments on Report of the Borders Bill,
(now the UK Borders Act 2007) Lord Avebury moved an amendment which would have
enabled asylum seekers to apply for permission to work. He set out the arguments in favour
of ending the ‘limbo’ in which many asylum seekers from Zimbabwe found themselves,
unwilling to return to Zimbabwe - and with the Government unable to enforce their departure
– and unable to support themselves:

         In the case of Zimbabweans, which I have mentioned previously, the Government are
         legally unable to deport such people for the time being, even if it were not
         inconceivable that anyone could be sent to a country that has so totally disintegrated
         so that literally millions are having to flee merely to stay alive. The Zimbabweans who
         manage to get to the UK are in limbo—some for a number of years because their
         cases date from the time when the policy was to allow all Zimbabweans to remain
         irrespective of the outcome of their appeals. Even now the practice is not to return
         Zimbabweans while the lawfulness of the policy is being tested in the case of AH,
         which I understand may go on in the courts for some while to come.

         Meanwhile, tens of thousands of exiles here have reached the end of the line with their
         asylum claims and although they are likely to be the most active and intelligent among
         the population of Zimbabwe, they can do nothing to develop their skills in this country
         so that, when Mugabe is finally toppled, they can make a full contribution towards the
         rebuilding of their own country.

         The best way that the UK can prepare to help them when that day comes is by
         encouraging the exiles to work now and, wherever possible, to upgrade their
         qualifications. That was the view of the JCHR and, indeed, it went further. It stated in
         its report on the treatment of asylum seekers:

             “We consider that by refusing permission for most asylum seekers to work and
             operating a system of support which results in widespread destitution, the
             treatment of asylum seekers in a number of cases reaches the Article 3 ECHR
             threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment”.

         The committee went on to recommend that asylum seekers should be allowed to apply
         for permission to work when their asylum appeal has been outstanding for 12 months
         or more and the delay is due to factors outside their control.

62
     UK Border Agency Asylum Support Policy Bulletin 72: Employment and Voluntary Activity (version 3) 4
     February 2005
63
     ‘Voice ID device to track failed asylum seekers’ Alan Travis Guardian 10 March 2006



                                                       22
         We propose that where there is evidence that an asylum seeker will not be able to
         leave the UK for 12 months or more, he or she should be granted limited leave to
         remain for 12 months, with a permission to work attached to it. We strongly endorse
         that JCHR recommendation and put it forward as a useful proposition for us to adopt in
         the amendment.

         According to a Home Office estimate of July 2006, there were then some 450,000
         legacy cases; that is, cases where claims for asylum or leave to remain had been
         made but not determined and where they were not being dealt with under the new
         asylum model. Those cases were dumped into a newly formed legacy directorate with
         1,000 staff who were to prioritise them and, where the claimants were selected, write to
         them sending a questionnaire so that the files could be updated and sent to a
         caseworker. All the cases were to be disposed of by 2011, five years from the date of
         the Home Secretary's original announcement. If every one of those disposals resulted
         in voluntary or compulsory departure immediately the decision was made, if the
         decisions were made evenly throughout the five years and we assumed that only half
         the legacy cases were able to work, barring those people from jobs will, by 2011, have
         lost the economy 2.5 times 225,000 person-years of work. If one values each person-
         year of work at the modest figure of £10,000, the total loss to the economy of
         preventing these people from working will amount to £5.6 billion.

         I invite the Minister to agree with that calculation and accept our amendment, which
         would allow these people to work while their cases were being decided. I beg to
         move. 64

The arguments against allowing asylum seekers to work were put by Lord Bassam:

         [Our] view is that it is crucial to maintain the distinction between managed migration
         and the asylum process. I know that many people seek to conflate them, but that is
         wrong and it does not help, particularly when we have to explain our policies at large
         within the United Kingdom. Entering the country for economic reasons is not the same
         as seeking asylum. We do not allow asylum seekers to work as that could encourage
         asylum applications from those with no fear of persecution and slow down the
         processing of applications from genuine refugees. It is important to note that the
         prohibition against working does not apply to asylum seekers who are recognised as
         refugees following a successful asylum claim. Secondly, since 5 February 2005
         specific provision has been made in the Immigration Rules for asylum seekers who
         have been waiting 12 months and more for an initial decision. These applicants can
         apply for permission to take up employment provided the delay is not attributable to
         them.

         Furthermore, under new arrangements for the handling of asylum claims, the Border
         and Immigration Agency is focused on concluding asylum claims within six months of
         the date of application. Dealing with applications more quickly than in the past will
         ensure that individuals are not on asylum support for any significant length of time.
         Only a few asylum seekers will qualify to work under the 12-month provision. As we
         have made clear, asylum seekers generally cannot work while their claims are being
         considered. Equally it would be inappropriate to allow failed asylum seekers to do so
         when they have no legal basis on which to remain in the UK.

         Giving failed asylum seekers permission to work may also create an incentive for them
         to remain in the United Kingdom when we expect all successful applicants to return




64
     HL Deb 11 Oct 2007 : Column 405-7



                                                   23
         home as soon as practicable. It is our belief that this amendment could open our
         asylum system to further abuse. For that reason we continue to resist it. 65

There are various campaigns seeking to change the Government’s position, for example:

     •   Right to Work - Refugee Council and TUC campaign to allow asylum seekers to work
     •   Just.Fair – the Refugee Council campaign to combat aspects of the asylum system causing
         destitution
     •   Still Human Still Here – campaign to end the destitution of refused asylum seekers


In an EDM tabled in January 2008, which (as of 15 January 2009) has gained 53 signatures,
Willie Rennie drew attention to the plight of Zimbabwean asylum seekers who faced
destitution:

         That this House is concerned by the plight of Zimbabwean refugees who are reduced
         to begging on the street by an asylum system that does not recognise the dangers of
         returning them to Zimbabwe; notes the Tenth Report of the Joint Committee on Human
         Rights and deplores the enforced destitution reported within it as occurring to those
         failed asylum seekers who rightly fear for their safety upon return to their country of
         origin; and urges the Government to take the applications of Zimbabwean refugees
         more seriously. 66

Whether asylum seekers whose applications are still pending (or those whose applications
have been refused) should be permitted to work in the UK is a question which continues to
cause controversy. In its report Deserving Dignity, the Independent Asylum Commission
concluded that:

         all those who seek sanctuary in the UK deserve to be treated with a dignity over which
         mere administrative convenience must never prevail; and recommends that urgent
         action is taken to remedy situations where the dignity of those who seek sanctuary is
         currently compromised […] 67

It went to argue that asylum seekers should be allowed to support themselves and that those
who passed through the New Asylum Model without their case being resolved within six
months should be entitled to work. 68

On 10 July 2008, following a statement to the House on the G8 summit, Nick Clegg MP
asked the Prime Minister whether Zimbabwean asylum seekers would be permitted to work
to support themselves:

         If words could transform the world, the summit would be revolutionary. No one can
         disagree with the stirring rhetoric about the needs of the developing world, about
         Zimbabwe and about the urgency of the ongoing trade talks. However, G8 summit
         words count only if they are translated into action, which is why although of course I
         welcome the strong language on Zimbabwe and the initiative being taken in the United
         Nations, I wonder why the Prime Minister has not taken more active steps in practice at
         home and abroad. For example, nearly three weeks ago I asked him to allow
         Zimbabwean asylum seekers to have the right to stay in the UK and to work to support


65
     HL Deb 11 Oct 2007 : Column 408
66
     EDM 660 of 2007-08 9 January 2008
67
     Independent Asylum Commission July 2008 Deserving Dignity: How To Improve The Way We Treat People
     Seeking Sanctuary [28 August 2008]
68
     Ibid: Executive summary (page 1) and page 34



                                                   24
         themselves before they return home. He said he would think about it. What has he
         actually decided? What is he actually going to do? (…) 69

In reply, the Prime Minister suggested that some changes were being considered:

         The right hon. Gentleman did raise with me the question of people seeking asylum
         from Zimbabwe, and I did say that we dealt on a case-by-case basis with the right to
         asylum, and that is still the policy. However, I can confirm that no one is being forced to
         return to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom at this time—no one. I can confirm also
         that we are actively looking at what we can do to support in this country Zimbabweans
         who are failed asylum seekers, who cannot work and who are prevented from leaving
         the UK through no fault of their own. They are provided with accommodation and
         vouchers to ensure that they are not destitute, but we are looking at what we can do to
         support Zimbabweans in that situation, and we will report back to the House in due
         course. However, I repeat to the right hon. Gentleman that no one is being forced to
         return to Zimbabwe at the present time (…) 70

Also in July 2008, the BBC reported that the Archbishop of York had joined the calls to allow
asylum seekers from Zimbabwe to work in the UK, arguing that they should be permitted to
live in mercy, justice and love:

         [While] applauding PM Gordon Brown's move to suspend forced deportations, Dr
         Sentamu said: "Give back to your brothers and sisters their human dignity.

         "Show your humanity. Show your statesmanship.

         "I know that the government is locked in a moral conundrum. But I believe that you
         should do the right thing for the right person at the right time." 71

The Government’s policy on returns to Zimbabwe and temporary leave to remain was
restated in the Lords in October 2008, when Lord Hylton asked about temporary leave to
remain for unsuccessful Zimbabwean asylum applicants who were in detention:

         The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of
         Spithead): The UK Border Agency only detains those Zimbabwean nationals who
         have committed crimes within the United Kingdom, are subject to deportation action
         and have been assessed as unsuitable for release due to being either a threat to the
         public and/or likely to abscond. Provisional management information indicates that, as
         at 29 September, there were 36 Zimbabwean nationals convicted of crimes within the
         UK who were held in detention pending deportation action. All such individuals have
         the opportunity to apply for release on bail to the independent Asylum and Immigration
         Tribunal.

         The situation in Zimbabwe is currently being considered by the Asylum and
         Immigration Tribunal. We have no plans to resume enforced returns to Zimbabwe
         before the tribunal has reached its conclusion. The timing of the resumption of
         enforced returns will take full account of the situation in Zimbabwe at the relevant time.

         Where a decision has been made that a person does not require international
         protection, and there are no remaining rights of appeal or obstacles to their return, we
         expect unsuccessful asylum seekers to return to their country of origin. Return and



69
     HC Deb 10 July 2008 c1554-5
70
     HC Deb 10 July 2008 c1556
71
     ‘Call to Let Zimbabwe Exiles Work’ BBC News 11 July 2008 [28 August 2008]



                                                     25
         reintegration assistance is available through the International Organisation for
         Migration.

         We will continue to help those Zimbabweans who want to go home voluntarily.

         The Prime Minister informed Parliament on 10 July that the Government are actively
         looking at the situation of those Zimbabweans who do not have a protection need but
         who have not returned home voluntarily. That consideration is currently ongoing and
         the Government will report back to Parliament once this has been completed. 72

The Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, took a similar line in December
2008, after Fiona Mactaggart had raised the plight of those stranded in the UK who were not
permitted to work:

         Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): In reply to an Opposition Member, the Leader of
         the House said that we would have the opportunity to discuss Zimbabwe on
         Wednesday. I am more concerned about the plight of the citizens of that benighted
         country who are stranded in Britain without having had their applications for asylum
         granted, but whom it is not planned to return to Zimbabwe. They are starving. Could
         we not have an announcement before Christmas on arrangements to allow them to
         work?

         Ms Harman: I think that my colleagues in the Home Office are very well aware of the
         difficulties for people from Zimbabwe, to which there are no forcible removals, and
         whether they are in a position to support themselves. I know that my colleagues will
         have heard the points that my hon. Friend has made, but in any event I shall refer her
         points to them. 73

In a case heard in the High Court in December 2008, the Hon Mr Justice Blake found that
current rules preventing an Eritrean asylum seeker from taking employment were
incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The deterrent effect of any
policy to refuse permission to work ought, he said, to be proportionate:

         51. In my judgment, none of the reasons relied on for justification of this blanket policy
         suffice to do so, whether the refusal is viewed as an interference of a human right to
         respect for private life or as mitigating or merely as a detriment arising from delay.
         There are other ways to address abuse by ill deserved claims, and there comes a point
         when the delay is such that any general deterrent effect that may remain in the
         interests of immigration control is so weakened in comparison with the requirement to
         put the life on hold without any indication of when it will be started again, that the
         generic reliance on policy will not do.

         52. The question of precisely when and it what circumstances the maintenance of the
         prohibition on employment ceases to be justifiable depends on a policy judgment that it
         is not open to the court to make. Absent any obligation that may be found to arise
         under Article 11 of the Reception Directive that is the subject of an appeal to the Court
         of Appeal, I accept that the Secretary of State is not bound to permit access to the
         labour market simply because 12 months have lapsed since a fresh claim has been
         submitted for decision. I note in Baia (loc cit above [29]) that an 18 month period was
         required before asylum seekers were granted permission to marry and this was
         considered disproportionate (see per Lady Hale at [42]-[44]). Whether the prohibition
         should be relaxed after two, three or four years, whether a total period of continuous
         stay in the United Kingdom should be the basis of assessment, how far the practical

72
     HL Deb 20 Oct 2008: Col WA87-8
73
     HC Deb 4 December 2008 Col 127



                                                    26
         ability to remove is a relevant criterion, whether claims outstanding after 12 months
         should be addressed by a sifting of potential merits, whether a specific date for
         decision could or should be given are all policy choices for the executive and not
         matters for this court in the first instance.

         53. I further can give the claimant no individual relief on his personal application in the
         absence of anything further being known about his circumstances.

The Hon Mr Justice Blake said that the policy ought to be reviewed within about three
months:

         54. What I can and do declare for the reasons given in this judgment that the present
         policy is unlawfully overbroad and unjustifiably detrimental to claimants who have had
         to wait as long as this claimant has. I will hear counsel on any other orders that may
         need to be made if they are not agreed. I would expect the policy to be reviewed and
         reformulated the light of this judgment within approximately three months. 74

Reaction to this ruling has suggested that it will have implications for thousands of cases,
including Zimbabweans:

         The Eritrean man, called Tekle, who cannot be returned to his home country because it
         is considered too dangerous, has been in the UK for seven years while his case is
         considered. Thousands of asylum seekers from other countries also considered too
         dangerous to return to - including Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe - are in a similar
         position.

         The ruling has no bearing on the 300,000-plus asylum seekers whose applications are
         being fast-tracked because they do not come from countries considered no-go areas.
         But Caroline Slocock, chief executive of the Refugee Legal Centre, said the ruling
         would affect a significant category who found themselves destitute and in limbo. 'We
         expect it to be in the thousands,' she said. 75

7        Country reports on Zimbabwe
The UKBA country assessment for Zimbabwe, last updated in December 2008, remarks that

         Zimbabwe's human rights record under Robert Mugabe has been vigorously criticised
         by the international community including the European Union, the Commonwealth, the
         United Nations, and the Africa Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as
         by the United States and other countries. The security forces have been used to
         suppress political opposition, independent media has been stifled, and legislation
         limiting freedom of political association, education and discussion has been introduced.
         ZANU-PF organised youth and war veteran groups have been used to intimidate the
         opposition. ZANU-PF officials have been accused by the MDC and civil society
         organisations of withholding food from localities which support the opposition. 76

The guidance note also describes recent events in Zimbabwe:

         2.8 Zimbabwe's human rights record under Robert Mugabe has been vigorously
         criticised by the international community including the European Union, the
         Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the Africa Commission for Human and
         Peoples' Rights, as well as by the United States and other countries. The security
         forces have been used to suppress political opposition, independent media has been

74
     Tekle v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] EWHC 3064 (Admin)
75
     Jamie Doward and Gaby Hinsliff ‘Ruling frees asylum seekers to work’ Observer 14 December 2008
76
     Operational Guidance Note: Zimbabwe v4 1 December 2008: para 2.8



                                                     27
stifled, and legislation limiting freedom of political association, education and
discussion has been introduced. ZANU-PF organised youth and war veteran groups
have been used to intimidate the opposition. ZANU-PF officials have been accused by
the MDC and civil society organisations of withholding food from localities which
support the opposition. In May 2005, the Government embarked on a crackdown
against informal sector trade and housing ("Operation Murambatsvina"). This resulted
in 700,000 people being made homeless (according to UN estimates). "Operation
Garikai" ("Live Well"), launched the following July and intended to re-house the
displaced has been crippled through lack of resources and very few have been
provided with adequate housing as a consequence.

2.9 Estimates vary but it probably more than 150 people, mainly MDC supporters, were
killed in the violence that attended the 2008 elections, and tens of thousands were
injured. As many as 250,000 people were displaced. The violence continued during the
post-election negotiations, particularly in rural areas, even after a Memorandum of
Understanding that included a call for an end to the political violence was signed by the
parties to the talks on 21 July 2008. Shortly after the MOU was signed ZANU-PF
reportedly did dismantle some of the bases that ‘war veterans’ had used to launch
attacks on MDC supporters after the MOU was signed but some remained, particularly
in Mashonaland West, East and Central provinces.

2.10 By 22 August 2008, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was reporting that
levels of political violence and intimidation had fallen, with the groups of ZANU-PF
youth previously prevalent in the northern, wealthier suburbs of Harare having
dispersed. The situation remained tense however, particularly in parts of Mashonaland
and Manicaland, where the ZANU-PF leadership is exceptionally vicious. Access to the
rural areas continued to be restricted by roadblocks with groups of ZANU-PF youth still
present in those areas and the main bases still in place. Attacks, abductions and
arrests of perceived MDC activists were still occurring around the country, but at a
lower level than April - June. The FCO concluded that while there was a downward
trend in violence, the situation remained unpredictable and incidents of violence across
the country continued, noting that it could deteriorate further without warning.

2.11 Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, under Mugabe’s
regime, judges, magistrates and lawyers faced intense pressure from the executive,
having been threatened, intimidated, harassed and arrested, and encountered
persistent refusal on the part of the executive to abide by judicial decisions.

2.12 Zimbabwe is in the midst of an unprecedented economic decline for a country in
peacetime. Average life expectancy is at its lowest level in over thirty years; 45% of the
population is malnourished, one of the highest rates in the world, formal-sector
unemployment is running at around 80%, and inflation is estimated to be up to tens of
millions of per cent per annum. A typical teacher’s monthly salary is enough to buy two
litres of cooking oil and a bar of soap (if such goods can be found at a time when the
supermarket shelves are often bare).

2.13 By 21 November 2008 nearly 300 people were reported to have died in Zimbabwe
in recent weeks in a cholera outbreak which has hit about 6,000 people. The World
Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that the water-borne disease would continue to
spread because of poor sanitation in the impoverished country's urban areas. Cholera
is endemic in Zimbabwe, but doctors are predicting that this would be the worst
outbreak since 2000. The WHO said that tackling the problem would be difficult




                                           28
          because of the local shortage of drugs, medical supplies and health professionals, and
          the start of the rainy season was "also of concern". 77

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s country profile of Zimbabwe also describes
instances of human rights abuses:

          In 2007, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has recorded the highest number
          of abuses since their records began in 2001. The security forces are used to suppress
          political opposition, independent media is stifled, and human rights defenders are
          harassed, assaulted and prevented from holding peaceful demonstrations. This
          includes the brutal crackdown on opposition and civil society members trying to attend
          a peaceful prayer rally in March 2007. Repressive legislation is in place, limiting
          fundamental freedoms. Although some small improvements to this legislation have
          recently been passed by Parliament, the situation on the ground has not improved.
          Torture occurs regularly and there is a general culture of impunity, whereby
          perpetrators of abuses are not prosecuted or even encouraged. ZANU-PF organised
          youth and war veteran groups have been used to intimidate the opposition. There are
          credible reports of politicisation of government food distributions. Many of the victims of
          Operation Murambatavina in 2005 remain homeless or destitute. 78

8         Handling asylum claims from Zimbabwe
The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has published an information sheet on
asylum claims from Zimbabwe 79 and another on Zimbabwe Country Guidance. 80      The
Refugee Council published an update in December 2007 (and, as mentioned earlier, has
published a more recent note on returns to Zimbabwe). 81

9         Statistics 82
The most recent asylum statistics 83 record that in 2007 1,800 principal applicants from
Zimbabwe applied for asylum in the UK. 84 Initial decisions were made on 1425 applications
(not necessarily all made in 2007, as some may have been older applications), of which 255
resulted in a grant of asylum and recognition as a refugee and a further 15 resulted in a grant
of discretionary leave to remain without recognition as a refugee 85 : in total, then, 19% of
applications resulted in some form of permission to stay. 1155 applications were refused.

Also in 2007, 1225 appeals were determined by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. Of
these, 285 were allowed, 885 dismissed and 55 withdrawn. 86 The asylum statistics for 2007
also offer revised figures for appeals in 2006. In that year, appeals from 1860 principal
applicants were heard: 765 were allowed, 1020 dismissed and 75 withdrawn. 87



77
     Operational Guidance Note: Zimbabwe v4 1 December 2008
78
     Foreign and Commonwealth Office Country Profile: Zimbabwe updated 11 January 2009
79
     ILPA Information Sheet Zimbabwe Asylum Claims 25 March 2008
80
     ILPA Information Sheet Zimbabwe Country Guidance 8 December 2008
81
     Refugee Council briefing: Zimbabwe Update 11 December 2007
82
     For more statistical information contact Richard Groat, Social and General Statistics Section (x6969).
83
     Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/08 Asylum Statistics United Kingdom 2007 21 August 2008 [28 August
     2008]
84
     Ibid: table 2.1. This figure is provisional. It is higher than those for 2006 (1650) or 2005 (1075), but below
     those for 2002 (7655), 2003 (3295) and 2004 (2065).
85
     Standard note SN/HA/1634 (on discretion outside the immigration rules) discusses discretionary leave.
86
     Ibid: table 7.4. Again, these figures are provisional.
87
     Ibid: table 7.5



                                                          29
A total of 185 Zimbabwean asylum applicants were removed or departed voluntarily to
Zimbabwe in 2007. This is down from 230 in 2006 and 260 in 2005. 88

In another written answer on 21 July 2008, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the
Home Office, Lord West explained that figures for removal did not distinguish between those
whose applications for asylum had been rejected (so-called ‘failed asylum seekers’) and
those who departed before their application had been decided:


         The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of
         Spithead): A total of 270 Zimbabwean asylum applicants (including dependants) were
         removed or departed voluntarily to Zimbabwe in 2005; 265 in 2006; and 185 in 2007.
         Figures include persons departing voluntarily after enforcement action had been
         initiated against them, persons leaving under assisted voluntary return programmes
         run by the International Organisation for Migration and those who it is established have
         left the UK without informing the immigration authorities. Figures are rounded to the
         nearest five and information for 2006 and 2007 is provisional.

         It is not possible to say what stage in the asylum process the returnees as a whole
         have reached at the time of their removal, including whether their claim has failed at
         that point, because those departing voluntarily can do so at any stage.

         We undertook to the High Court on 26 September 2006 that we would not enforce the
         return of asylum seekers to Zimbabwe pending the outcome of ongoing country
         guidance litigation. We have no current plans to enforce returns to Zimbabwe.

         Further information on asylum removals from the UK is available from the Library of the
         House and the Home Office's Research, Development and Statistics website at:
         www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html. 89

A breakdown of asylum refusals month-by-month in 2007/08 was provided in another written
answer in July 2008:

         Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many
         Zimbabwean people have been refused asylum in the UK in each of the last (a) 12
         months and (b) five years; and how many are awaiting a decision on an asylum
         application. [220635]

         Mr. Byrne [holding answer 21 July 2008]: The following two tables give the most
         recently published figures available and show the total number of refusals for
         Zimbabwean people, following initial decisions, between April 2007 and March 2008
         and for each of the last five years.

         The published figure for asylum applications for Zimbabwean people awaiting an initial
         decision is not available as the figures are based on an overall manual count which is
         not divided into separate categories.

         Information on asylum is published annually and quarterly. Annual Statistics for 2007
         and for Q2 2008 will be available on 21 August 2008 from the Library of the House and
         from the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate web site at:

             http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html



88
     Ibid: table 11.1
89
     HL Deb 21 July 2008 : Column WA211



                                                   30
Asylum refusals(1) on initial decisions in the United Kingdom, excluding
dependants 2003-07, nationals of Zimbabwe

                           Total refusals

2003                       3,285

2004                       2,310

2005                       945

2006(2)                    1,510

2007(2)                    1,155

    (1)                                      (2)
          Figures rounded to nearest five.         Provisional figures.




Asylum refusals on initial decisions( 1,2) in the United Kingdom, excluding
dependants April 2007 to March 2008 by month, nationals of Zimbabwe

                                      Total refusals

2007

April                                 95

May                                   140

June                                  115

July                                  135

August                                85

September                             70

October                               80

November                              105

December                              70




2008




                                        31
         January                                  80

         February                                 100

         March                                    90

         (1)
               Figures rounded to nearest five.
         (2)
               Provisional figures.
        90




90
     HC Deb 22 July 2008: Column 1327W




                                                   32

								
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