READERS will no doubt have encountered the double-faced approach of the UK Border Agency in respect of immigration and asylum issues as they relate to Zimbabwe. The UKBA’s objective evidence on Zimbabwe is being interpreted differently, depending on whether the issue under consideration is an immigration issue or an asylum application.
For starters, you may have noticed that it is now becoming increasingly difficult to sponsor a relative to come to the United Kingdom. There are some sad cases where some people have tried to bring parents or other relatives for either a graduation event; wedding or just a simple visit for some other family gathering but without success. Most of these relatives are in their 50s and upwards.
Take for example someone who wants to bring his 60-year-old mother and the response given by the UKBA has been that she is unlikely to return to Zimbabwe because of the current economic and political situation prevailing in the country. On the economy, the reasons advanced are that it has now crumbled; such that no-one who gains entry in the United Kingdom would like to leave at the expiry of their stay.
Often cited is the GDP that has fallen by half since 1998, and the official unemployment rate being quoted at 80%. So, the reasoning goes, it would therefore be proper that entry clearance be refused.
On the political front, the UKBA presents a picture of a Government of National Unity that is not pulling in the same direction and concludes that issues of human rights are yet to be fully addressed. On the basis of this assessment it is then concluded that granting entry clearance under such circumstances would not be proper as the visitor will not likely return at the end of her visit to the UK.
Yet the rules for entry clearance as a general visitor are simply that:
• You are 18 or over
• You want to visit the United Kingdom for up to six months
• You intend to leave the United Kingdom at the end of your visit
• You have enough money to support and accommodate yourself without working or help from public funds or you will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends
• You can meet the cost of the return or onward journey
Readers will note that in the majority of cases most Zimbabweans who intend to visit the United Kingdom will be able to fulfil the requirements of the rules. In any case, most of the people that fall in this category do not intend to stay in the United Kingdom any period longer anyway, as they are such people who would not even countenance the idea of ever leaving Zimbabwe! However, the entry clearance officer in Pretoria seems to think otherwise.
As highlighted above, it would appear the emphasis is being placed more on intention to leave at the end of the visit; which is only one of the requirements amongst several and in any case it is questionable how that intention is being determined, i.e. is it objective or subjective intention? If the test is objective intention, which is normally the case in such circumstances, can the UKBA seriously say that it is applying this test in a fair, transparent and robust manner as it often prides itself?
To expose the UKBA’s double-faced policy in its objective assessment of Zimbabwe, one just has to look at its treatment of asylum claims. The position being adopted is that the political and economic situation has greatly improved. The emphasis is now being shifted to all the achievements of the Unity Government and how it has managed to arrest inflation and stabilise the economy.
The picture being painted is that the levels of violence witnessed in the aftermath of the 2008 Elections have disappeared and there is now some semblance of rule of law prevailing in Zimbabwe. Consequently, the UKBA argues that the Unity Government is holding on and working well so that those who have no genuine fear of persecution ought to return to Zimbabwe.
If that be the position, is there anymore justification to refuse someone entry clearance as a visitor on the basis that she is unlikely to return at the end of her visit because the economy is in shambles and the political situation remains dire? The answer simply is that, such reasoning is not justifiable because it is self-contradictory.
The question is: how do you reconcile these two approaches to the same question in relation to the same country? One can only conclude that the UKBA is not being fair in its approach to immigration and asylum issues in relation to Zimbabwe. There ought to be consistency in approach because one cannot be denied a UK visa on the basis that she will not return to a country that is suffering political turmoil and economic meltdown; yet at the same time others are being told that the economic and political situation has vastly improved and they should, therefore, go back home.
Given the above scenario and the apparent inclination of the Entry Clearance Officer in Pretoria to refuse, it appears that it will be advisable for applicants who feel aggrieved by the refusals to exercise their rights of appeal to the First-Tier Immigration and Asylum Chamber.
The appeal process gives the sponsors a chance to present their cases before an Independent Judge who is able to assess all the factors in the round and in some instances may allow the appeal. Otherwise bringing in relatives to visit the United Kingdom in order to witness graduation or wedding events or just to come and relax will continue to be treated in a flippant manner by the UKBA as it now appears to be the norm especially in respect of Zimbabweans.
George Tizirai-Chapwanya, BL (Hons) LLB LLM is a solicitor with Bake & Co Solicitors. He can be contacted on e-mail email@example.com or visit Bake & Co Solicitors’ website at www.bakesolicitors.co.uk; 0121 616 5025 or 07815958475
Disclaimer: This article only provides general information on immigration law. It is not intended to replace the advice or services of a Solicitor. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of use of this information