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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 14:26 GMT
Zimbabwe migrant: Thabani Mthembo
Medical staff checking x-rays
Thabani was surprised by the high turnover of staff in the UK
The BBC News website has been speaking to Zimbabweans who have left the country in recent years about their reasons and the risks they took.

Last week the International Organisation for Migration launched a "Safe Journey" campaign in Zimbabwe, with help from some of the country's best-known musicians, to make would-be migrants aware of the dangers involved.

Thabani Mthembo (not his real name), 35, works as a radiographer in Suffolk, England. He applied for jobs at UK hospitals after feeling that there was no future for him in Zimbabwe.

I came to England in September 2001.

I applied for a job here in the UK after realising that no matter what I did, I didn't have a future back home.

I would not be able to own my own home or be able to guarantee a future for my children.

For people of my age it was looking like a very dead-end situation.

On my own

Map of the UK county Suffolk
Thabani's second child was born in England

I had 10 years radiography experience on my side but it was a somehow different ball game in this country.

Equipment was the same as back in Zimbabwe, but there were a lot of accessories that we had not had.

There was a lot to learn in a short space of time and more so, the staff turnover was very high, meaning you had to be competent yesterday!

My early days were quite difficult.

My wife and daughter only joined me after six months. So initially I was on my own - no-one to relate to, no shoulder to lean on.


From my experiences, the English have a general mistrust of anyone who is not their own.

It is hard for foreigners to break through the system.

With time we have settled and become more confident

People do not smile, they grin. Good morning, silence replies you.

After a lonesome night in your room, in a flat with no lounge, and no windows to the kitchen, toilet and bathroom, you wish for the next flight to Harare.

It is what you have left there that keeps you in England.

If I had been aware that these were the realities, before I came, I would have chosen another destination.


Gradually you get round to knowing the local politics at work, and the routines.

You master the techniques, become assertive and begin to realise that there were instances of abuse to some extent, racially.

You forgive that, pronto, let them try it again.

My family found it difficult adjusting at first too but with time we have settled and become more confident.

It was a rude awakening finding that we were such a small minority, living out of London.

We have found friends in other Africans - black and white - we stick together naturally.

Maybe a failure on my part but I can't think of one Englishman that I relate to.


I do worry that the standard of education that my daughter receives is not as good as back home. I often ask myself why it doesn't seem as challenging as it should be.

But then I think of all the people that are here specifically to do PhD or Masters degrees and that consoles me somewhat.

Child care is also difficult. My wife is currently on maternity leave after giving birth to our son but we know that in another three or four months we'll be stressed out.

I send them all as much as I can manage, whenever I can

We have no other family here and so lack their support in that respect.

We are struggling coming to terms with sending our baby to a child minder as he's so young. But we both need to work and so what else can we do?

The situation back home has made family visiting us here in the UK a challenge.

The British side do not believe that they are only coming for a holiday - they think that once they are here they will not return home.

Thankfully after a long drawn out battle with the Home Office my 55-year-old mother was eventually allowed to visit us.

As we had planned she stayed for six months and then returned.

I am hoping that next time she wants to visit it will not be a problem, on the score that she did in fact return when she was meant to.

As the eldest of the children in my family it is my responsibility to ensure that my mother and my late father's brothers and their families are adequately catered for. The same goes for my in-laws.

And so I send them all as much as I can manage, whenever I can.

Ties alive

I want to retire in my early 50s.

When I am still strong enough to go back and reintegrate into society.

Until then we will continue to go home on holiday every two years, to keep the ties alive and so that we remain recognisable to those we left behind.

And for the meantime, to the UK system: Thank you for having me.

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