28/06/2005

Zimbabwe asylum returns ‘immoral’ Archbishop claims

The Archbishop of Canterbury has described the deportation of failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe as “deeply immoral”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “There are some places where, if people are sent back, the risks are just statistically so unacceptably high. I am amazed that Zimbabwe hasn’t been reviewed in this light.”

The Archbishop also expressed concern over the methods used to collect failed asylum seekers. He said that he had visited several detention centres and said that methods involving “knocks on the door at five in the morning” were “deeply traumatising” for the people involved.

Dr Williams also urged other African countries to “rally round” and apply pressure on President Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe.

According to the UN, around 275,000 have been left homeless by President Mugabe’s recent campaign to demolish shantytowns and markets.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that there would not be a moratorium on the deportation of over 100 Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers, currently being held in detention centres across the UK. A ban, which prevents failed asylum seekers from being returned to Zimbabwe was lifted in November.

However, ‘The Times’ reported today that the asylum seekers are being allowed to remain in the UK, while new appeals are looked into.

The Home Office has reportedly said that no new appeal hearings were taking place. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said that each case would have to be considered individually, in order to stop people exploiting the system by making false asylum claims.

At least 57 Zimbabwean refugees are reported to on hunger strike, in protest at the lifting of the ban, in detention centres across the UK.

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.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis criticised the government’s policy on Zimbabwe as a “miserable failure” and called for a review of the policy.

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

(KMcA/SP)

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