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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Zimbabwe returns to be resumed
Anti-Mugabe protester outside Zimbabwe Embassy, London
Failed asylum seekers say they fear persecution in Zimbabwe
The government is to resume deporting failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers after a tribunal judge ruled they would not automatically face persecution.

Justice Henry Hodge said asylum-seekers linked to Zimbabwean opposition parties were most likely to face ill-treatment.

Deportations were halted in 2005 after the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) ruled Zimbabwe was unsafe for all failed asylum seekers.

But in April the High Court ordered the AIT to reconsider its decision.

Approximately 300 Zimbabweans were returned to the country, not all forcibly, before the AIT effectively halted all removals last October.

Its ruling in a test case meant, in effect, that the very act of claiming asylum in the UK endangered Zimbabweans so the government was obliged to protect them.

'Robust and fair'

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said the new ruling provided the basis for a resumption of enforced returns.

Mr Byrne said the government remained "deeply concerned" about the appalling human rights situation in Zimbabwe and recognised there were Zimbabweans who were in genuine fear of persecution, but deportations were also necessary.

Lucia, Zimbabwean asylum-seeker
If I had to go back to Zimbabwe I would be killed

"Enforcing the return of those who have no right to remain here is a key part of upholding a robust and fair asylum system.

"It is therefore essential that we resume returns to send a clear signal to those who come here believing they can abuse the system that they will not be allowed to stay unless they have a genuine need for protection," he said.

Refugee Council spokesman Tim Finch said they were disappointed by the ruling.

"The ruling, while restoring the legal right to enforce removals, nonetheless makes it clear that a lot of people are at real risk if they are sent back. The government has won a small legal victory but not the moral argument," Mr Finch said.

Commenting after the judgement, shadow home secretary David Davis said the whole situation was due to the government's failure of policy in Zimbabwe.

"It demonstrates the need for a better analysis of the situation in Zimbabwe including the fate of deportees.

"We called for this 12 months ago, but the government have failed to act," Mr Davis said.

Zimbabweans protest outside tribunal

Halt Zimbabwe removals says judge
06 Jul 05 |  Politics
So where are Zimbabweans going?
08 Nov 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Zimbabwe
21 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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