BETWEEN August 9 and 17 this year, the Home Office undertook a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe to gather information on the situation in Zimbabwe since the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) back in February 2009.
Its 105 pages long report was published on September 21, 2010. The report does not make any conclusions, it just sets out the findings and responses of the people that were interviewed.
Many sources were interviewed, including the major NGO’s operating in Zimbabwe. The mission also talked to seven people that voluntarily returned from the UK after their asylum claims failed to find out whether they had experienced any problems as a result of having claimed asylum in the UK.
The report was prepared, mainly with a view to assist the Immigration and Asylum Chamber which will hear a new Country Guidance case on Zimbabwe this October 2010. More importantly, the report was meant to inform the Home Office on whether it was now safe to resume removals of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. The UK government has had a policy of not returning failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe since July 14, 2005. This continues to be in place.
The Home Office have, however, started to use the report of the Fact Finding Mission in ongoing asylum claims, putting a spin on the evidence and picking the bits that are favourable to their position. What is significant, however, is that the UK government has confirmed that they will not be resuming returns to Zimbabwe any time soon. This confirms that much as they may spin the report, the political situation in Zimbabwe remains volatile and tense. There is a general feeling that violence may rise again if elections are held next year as seems likely.
The report confirms this. The different sources that were interviewed agree that whilst there is at present an improved peace in Zimbabwe as a result of the government of national unity, it is a fragile peace.
The report also confirms what has always been known about Zimbabwean politics — that state-sponsored violence is very much cyclical and tends to increase around major political events such as elections. In fact, to confirm this, political tension and violence is already bubbling up due to the ongoing constitutional outreach process. There is documented evidence of meetings of the Constitution outreach being cancelled due to intimidation, disruptions and monitoring by state intelligence.
The consensus seems to be that the political situation may deteriorate even further as we get nearer to the national elections which may take place in 2011 or 2012. Some sources even confirmed that there is already increasing militarisation of the rural areas.
An interesting part of the report is the information provided by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace Zimbabwe which confirms that every ward in Zimbabwe has a Ward Coordinator who is financed by Zanu PF and who reports attendances. Meetings are also routinely attended by agents from the Central Intelligence Organisation who inhibit attendance. This is highly significant, particularly with respect to the question of the safety of rural areas for returnees.
This is confirmed by a different source who states that;
“Rural areas are more tense in terms of political affiliation. Questions would be asked of those returning from overseas. The United Kingdom is the least popular country in terms of the reputation it has through state media.”
Another highly relevant aspect of the report is that food aid in the rural areas continues to be politicised, with everything being done through the Zanu PF structures who use their lists to manage the distribution of aid.
Yet another source confirmed that;
“There is some politicisation in healthcare provision. If a patient is a victim of a human rights violation they cannot get treatment without a police report, which the police will often decline to provide, thus effectively barring treatment in public hospitals”.
Focus is likely to be on the evidence of the seven returnees who voluntarily went back to Zimbabwe after their asylum claims were refused in the UK. They state that they did not experience any significant problems at the airport, apart from having to pay the odd bribe to smooth their passage.
However, they echo the sentiment that there is generally hostility towards returnees from the UK and they have had to be careful to not tell people outside their families that they claimed asylum in the UK. Significantly, all seven did not settle in the rural areas where the chiefs and headmen are the eyes and ears of the Zanu PF party.
This report, therefore, confirms what we have always known. Zimbabwe is not yet safe and the Home Office have confirmed this by maintaining their policy of not returning failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.
In fact, on September 14, 2010, Henry Bellingham, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, told the House of Commons that “we are not starting enforced returns yet by any means”.
This statement was made before the publication of the Fact Finding Mission report but the government would have been aware of the findings at that stage.
Anyone who thinks that their immigration status may be affected by this opinion should seek professional legal advice. At Genesis Law Associates, we specialise in all areas of immigration, asylum and nationality law
Taffi Nyawanza is the principal of Genesis Law Associates, a specialist immigration and asylum law firm in Birmingham. He can be contacted on email@example.com or ph. 0121 222 2370 or visit Genesis Law Associates’ website at www.genesislaw.co.uk
Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance 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 the use of this information