Zimbabwe deportations to continue

The Prime Minister has refused to halt the deportation of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers, in spite of fears that they could face persecution if they return to the country.

Mr Blair said: “If we engage in a generalised moratorium, our fear is that we would literally be back in the situation we were two or three years ago, where people were hammering us for not getting the asylum system under control.

“What we are trying to do is get the balance right between obviously protecting people from torture or abuse from what is an appalling (President Robert) Mugabe regime but not ending up in system where we just re-open all the problems we have had in our asylum system.”

Mr Blair’s comments come as a hunger strike among Zimbabwean refugees continues across the UK. The Home Office said that 57 of the 116 Zimbabweans who are due to be deported are now on hunger strike – an increase from 41 at the weekend.

However, campaigners have suggested that around 100 people are involved in the hunger strike, which is in protest at the lifting of a ban, which prevents them from being deported.

In the four years up to 2004, over 15,000 Zimbabweans have fled to Britain seeking asylum from President Mugabe’s regime. However, only a few hundred have been granted asylum. In the first three months of 2005, 95 Zimbabweans have been deported.

The Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent review of the cases of the 116 asylum seekers facing deportation.

The situation in Zimbabwe has raised concerns, following recent moves by President Mugabe to demolish shantytowns and markets in what has been described as an “urban renewal” campaign, aimed at tackling crime and improving health standards in the country’s cities. According to the UN, around 275,000 people have been left homeless by the measures.

There have been increasing calls in Britain to reintroduce the Home Office ban, lifted in November, preventing any Zimbabweans being sent back to the country.


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