Page last updated at 19:50 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 20:50 UK

Britons to return from Zimbabwe

Fred Noble prepares to leave Zimbabwe
Pensioner Fred Noble says he is going home to die

More than 60 British passport holders, reduced to poverty in Zimbabwe, are to be repatriated to Britain over the next few weeks.

They are the first successful applicants to a UK government scheme to resettle elderly and vulnerable people unable to afford the move themselves.

All their savings were lost in years of hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe.

The government says it may eventually have to pay for the return of 750 of its citizens.

The scheme is available to people aged over 70 with medical or care needs.

Bags packed

Fred Noble has lived in Zimbabwe for 51 years, but is now packing his bags for the move back to Britain this weekend. He had built up a good pension fund working on the railways, but is now almost destitute.

"I got sick, had to go to a private hospital and pay all the expenses myself. I had to sell my flat," he said.

I came to a beautiful country and I will remember it as that
Fred Noble, pensioner

"One day you are very well off, and the next day you are a poor man."

Inflation in Zimbabwe, which at one point reached 231m%, made pensions, savings and investments worthless.

British local government minister John Healy says the number of enquiries went up after last year's presidential election in Zimbabwe.

"People were looking for help, particularly as the economy was still collapsing, the health care system, food supplies were getting more difficult," he said.

With the new unity government in power, the economy in Zimbabwe is beginning to stabilise. But it has come too late for Mr Noble.

"I'll miss this," he said. "Wonderful years. But I am not a young man any more, and I am going home to die - that is how I look at it. I came to a beautiful country and I will remember it as that."

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