UK: Ex-soldier continues fight against deportation to Zim; Home Office not convinced with claim he was ‘tortured and beaten’ in Harare for serving in British army

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LONDON: A British Army veteran is “living in fear each and every second” due to the threat of deportation to Zimbabwe.

Joram Nechironga has spent more than 20 years living in the UK and served in Iraq during his five years with 9 Supply Regiment, based at Hullavington Barracks, in Wiltshire.

But the Coventry resident is involved in a lengthy legal battle with the Home Office to prevent his removal and is hoping to raise funds to launch a judicial review.

The father-of-two said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) linked to his experiences on the frontline, which at one stage saw him turn to drinking, and he also served time in prison as a result.

But the House of Commons has heard the 42-year-old “turned his life around” working as a painter and decorator after his release, with his Labour MP Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) urging ministers to stop him being deported.

Nechironga fears for his safety if he is returned to Zimbabwe and claims he was “tortured and beaten” for serving in the British Army and was viewed as a “spy” during his last visit in 2006.

The Home Office does not accept this claim due to “inconsistencies” in Nechironga’s account and wants him to leave the country as soon as possible.

His latest submissions for a protection claim and for his deportation order to be revoked have been rejected by the Home Office.

Nechironga said he apologises for his mistakes and wants to be given the chance to continue his life in the UK and receive the treatment he needs for his mental health.

Joram Nechironga

He told the PA news agency: “I’m living in fear each and every second, they have put my life on hold.

“I went to prison and did my time and after I did my probation and finished.

“I have not had any problems living with people in the community. I’m not a person who has been to prison so many times, it was my first time since I have been in this country.

“To make a judicial review, that’s my only hope at the moment and it’s important for me, only I have to look for help from my partner and family if they could help me but they are mentally and financially drained from helping me.”

Nechironga was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK in August 2007 and says he has no connections in Zimbabwe.

He was served with a decision to deport in January 2019 after he was convicted for assaulting a family member and sentenced to 32 months in jail, of which he served 17 months, with 15 months on probation.

Nechironga spent almost a month in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow, between February and March this year and was almost deported on March 2.

He said: “I feel hopeless every time I hear a knock on my door. I just feel weak because of the way the immigration enforcement came and picked me up.

“It was scary for me because I wasn’t expecting treatment like that with my PTSD and the way they wanted to deport me and put me on a bus yet I was allegedly not on the flight manifest.”

Since his release from Colnbrook, Nechironga said he cannot work, study or claim benefits.

Solicitors acting on his behalf have made representations on the basis of his mental health, PTSD and the “dangerous environment” for him in Zimbabwe.

The Home Office, in response to a claim to receive protection, told Nechironga: “It is maintained that you have not established a well-founded fear of persecution, so you do not qualify for asylum.”

In response to his application to revoke the deportation order, the department said there are “no grounds on which to revoke your deportation order”.

Documents show the decisions were taken by the department on April 14, but this was not communicated to Nechironga until June 13.

Andrew Nyamayaro, of Tann Law Solicitors, said this appeared to be a “ploy” to frustrate a judicial review as it has to be submitted to court within three months from the date of decision.

Nyamayaro, who has provided legal representation for Nechironga, said: “For reasons best known to themselves, the Home Office made the decision in April but faxed it to us a few days ago.”

He added: “Joram still faces a risk of deportation and hence the importance to do a judicial review.”

Nyamayaro said he has advised Nechironga to seek a firm still offering legal aid as they no longer take legal aid cases and instead would have to charge him.

He added: “Any financial well-wishers are welcome if he is to continue with us as he is struggling financially.”

Costs linked to a judicial review could amount to more than £3,000 and increase further if there is an oral hearing.

The Home Office said Nechironga has three months to launch a judicial review from the date he received the letter, rather than from the April date contained on the letter.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our priority will always be to keep our communities safe, which is why we make no apology for seeking to remove foreign criminals and since January 2019 we have removed more than 10,000.”