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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Prince Charles' 'Zimbabwe appeal'
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's President
Mugabe has ordered white farmers to leave their land
Prince Charles has reportedly urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to do more to help British citizens fleeing Zimbabwe.

News of the appeal comes as Robert Mugabe's critics warn his land reform programme threatens the lives of millions of Zimbabweans.


What I think is needed is an African solution to this African problem

Peter Hain
Foreign Office Minister
The prince is said to be worried that many families leaving the African country for the UK are being denied help and benefits.

Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said the government was giving the help it could but the focus needed to be on reversing the situation in Zimbabwe itself.

The Daily Mail newspaper reports that Prince Charles has written privately to Mr Blair about his concern about red tape facing families arriving in the UK.

Depending on charity

St James' Palace said it could neither confirm nor deny that the letter existed and Downing Street says it will respond if a letter is received.

Some Zimbabweans coming to the UK argue they have to rely on charity because of the lack of benefits available to them.

Mr Hain said those fleeing persecution did receive support as they went through the normal asylum process.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles issaid to want more help for fleeing families
British citizens leaving Zimbabwe were entitled to claim their rights in the same way as other UK residents, Mr Hain told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I don't think we should turn what is a failure of leadership in Zimbabwe into some kind of criticism of reception facilities," Mr Hain.

The minister also pointed to the development and food aid the UK was giving to help people in Zimbabwe.

Food politics

That help was being channelled through non-governmental organisations rather than through the Zimbabwean government.

Mr Hain pointed to evidence that Mr Mugabe's officials were using food as a "political weapon", providing it only to their supporters.

Michael Ancram, shadow foreign secretary
Ancram says ministers are "shilly-shallying"
"The whole situation is desperate, the country is being torn apart by state organised violence," said Mr Hain.

The deadline has now passed for two-thirds of the country's remaining white farmers to leave their farms.

Many of those families are reportedly refusing to move.

Mr Hain said the UK had helped to get sanctions in place against Mr Mugabe and his top officials, as well as Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth.

Facing out Mugabe?

"One of the problems with dictators like Mugabe is that they take no notice of international opinion," he added.

The Conservatives have accused the government of failing to do enough to tackle Mr Mugabe.

On Monday, Tory shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said: "We have got to stop shilly-shallying.

"We have got the Earth Summit coming up in Johannesburg. Tony Blair is going to be nearer to Zimbabwe than he has been for a very long time.

"Mugabe and his people, I think, will be out in Johannesburg. They have got to be faced out."

Earth summit talks

Mr Hain said the Tories, despite their criticisms, had offered no practical alternative policies.

The prime minister would, however, discuss the situation with African leaders at the Earth Summit, he said.

"What I think is needed is an African solution to this African problem," said Mr Hain, stressing that such an initiative would get UK support.


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See also:

09 Aug 02 | Africa
25 Jun 02 | Africa
18 Jul 02 | Africa
09 Jun 00 | Africa
11 Jul 02 | Africa
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