BRITAIN has stepped up the deportation of failed asylum seekers, several immigration lawyers said on Sunday as a rights group claimed some of the deportees were being SEDATED in order to go quietly.
At least three immigration lawyers told New Zimbabwe.com there was a dramatic rise in removals, even as rights groups warn of a possible upsurge in violence ahead of elections next year.
The lawyers said most of those being detained awaiting removal had been taken in after reporting to various centres as part of conditions imposed by the UK Border Agency.
Masimba Mavaza, of the Norwich-based law firm IEI Solicitors, said: “It’s not a good time to be an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe.”
Brighton Matebuka, an immigration lawyer in Leeds, said: “We don’t have the statistics but there is a sharp increase in removals, to be quite honest I don’t remember a time when it was this bad.”
The rights group ZimVigil, which has been holding protests outside the Zimbabwe embassy every Saturday for several years, claimed that “deportees are being drugged or threatened with sedation to ensure they do not kick up a fuss when put on a plane home.”
Airlines are known to refuse to carry deportees at any sign of trouble. Some pilots have refused to fly after some deportees either stripped naked, refused to be seated or caused a noise nuisance.
The UK Border Agency employs private security firms to accompany deportees, and rights groups have previously claimed the guards use undue force to ensure removal so that they get paid.
ZimVigil said it knew of incidents where “security guards employed by the UK Border Agency have manhandled deportees to keep them quiet, causing injuries.”
In a statement, it added: “One woman who succeeded in being taken off a flight came to the vigil still limping.”
Campaigner Ephraim Tapa, a former trade union leader who fled Zimbabwe after he was tortured in 2002, said he had heard from four people who claimed to have been “injected with sedatives or threatened with sedation to facilitate their deportation”.
Last Thursday, ZimVigil said one of its members, Chipo Hazel Tafirenyika, was deported after guards threatened her with sedation “if she caused any trouble” at the airport.
Tapa, who heads the UK-based group Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR), said: “This is unbelievable. This heavy-handed approach is a flagrant breach of human rights.”
No comment was immediately available from the UK Border Agency last night on ZimVigil’s claims about the drugging of deportees.
British courts cleared the way for deportations to Zimbabwe to resume following the formation of the coalition government between President Robert Mugabe and long-time opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
The UK’s immigration minister Damian Green announced last year that “it’s in everyone's interest for people to return to Zimbabwe and use their skills to support themselves and help rebuild the country”.
He went on: “There are some Zimbabweans who continue to have a well-founded fear of persecution; we continue to grant protection to those people.
“As with any other nationality, every case is considered on its individual merits and against the background of the latest available country information.
“The courts have found that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection and given the improved situation on the ground in Zimbabwe since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 ... those found not to be in need of protection have always been expected to return home.”