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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 19:36 GMT 20:36 UK
UK Zimbabweans on hunger strike
Demolition scene in Zimbabwe
Aid workers say the demolitions has left 200,000 homeless
Zimbabwean asylum seekers held in detention centres in the UK have begun a hunger strike in a bid to bring a halt to deportations.

They say they are supporters of opposition parties and fear being tortured if forced to return.

The Home Office said none of the 106 Zimbabweans scheduled for removal were assessed to be in danger if sent back - 16 of them are on hunger strike.

But Labour MP Kate Hoey has called for an immediate stop to the deportations.

She said those asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down would not be returning to a safe country.

On Thursday Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed "profound concern" about Zimbabwe and urged African leaders not to turn a blind eye to the actions of Robert Mugabe.

'Changed situation'

Ms Hoey secretly visited Zimbabwe and later told BBC's Newsnight programme about a demolition operation which aid workers say has left 200,000 homeless.

She told the BBC: "Anyone who has a slightest involvement with any kind of opposition politics is in real danger.

"It is quite shocking, given what the foreign secretary has said - and he has made some very strong remarks in the last few days about what's happening in Zimbabwe - that the Home Office should even think of sending anyone back.

"There should be an immediate stop on all removals until we have got to the bottom of some of the cases in a lot more detail but also until we see a changed situation in Zimbabwe."

Medical supervision

The Home Office said hunger strikes - defined as a situation where detainees refuse four consecutive meals - were taking place at Harmondsworth detention centre at Heathrow and Yarlswood in Bedfordshire.

A spokesman said staff were monitoring the welfare of the hunger-strikers to ensure they receive appropriate medical supervision.

"Regular country assessments are carried out by the Home and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices in order to ascertain the current country situation and ensure the safety of returning people to their country of origin who have no legal basis of stay in the United Kingdom," he added.

Roy Ndlovu, 25, one of the hunger strikers at Harmondsworth, said he was prepared to die in the UK rather than be sent back to Zimbabwe.

If I am sent back to Zimbabwe, I will be detained. And If I die there my family will not know what happened to me
Roy Ndlovu

Mr Ndlovu, who came to the UK in October 2002, said he would be detained by the police if returned.

He said his father and brother - also supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - had not been heard from since they were taken away by police in March 2002.

He told the BBC News website: "If I die here, my body will be sent back and my mother will see me.

"If I am sent back to Zimbabwe, I will be detained. And If I die there my family will not know what happened to me."

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