Zimbabwe: No forced removal of failed asylum seekers, says Court

12-18-05, 9:17 am

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has refused the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality permission to appeal against its determination that the way its officers were enforcing returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers was unsafe.

And it has further determined that any Zimbabwean citizen who will not return to Zimbabwe willingly is a refugee. There should therefore be no forced removals to Zimbabwe until, and if, the Minister appeals to the Court of Appeal and the appeal is upheld.

Assisted voluntary removals, however, are possible. The Minister, Mr. Tony McNulty, in a written Ministerial statement to the House of Commons, said on 18 October said the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal issued a determination in relation to the treatment of failed asylum seekers whose return to Zimbabwe was enforced. He said further: '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.' The tribunal was taken to task to explain the significance of its October 18th determination and on November 16 said that the effect of the determination is that any Zimbabwean citizen who will not return there willingly is a refugee. The Minister said his office was reviewing the method by which it enforces returns and was therefore in strong disagreement with the Tribunal's conclusion. He said his office would be appealing this determination or others which rely upon it and would continue to take decisions based on the individual merits of the claims. A spokesman for the Refugee Legal Centre, which won the case on behalf of Zimbabwean asylum seekers, said it was not a sensible use of public funds for the government to insist on deporting Zimbabweans. 'The sensible course of action is for them to abide by Tribunal's decision pending the outcome of their appeal, because, with this judgement we can confidently expect to win any case that is brought before us,' said the spokesman. The Minister insists that the tribunal did not find that Zimbabwe was unsafe generally for failed asylum seekers or that those who return voluntarily are at risk, even though he admitted that the Government was 'deeply concerned' about the political and economic crisis and the 'appalling human rights situation in Zimbabwe'. '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),' said the Minister.