Rethink urged on Zimbabwe asylum

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Pressure is growing for the Home Office to rethink its policy of deporting failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers back to their home country. Shadow foreign secretary Dr Liam Fox said deportations should be stopped if proof showed deportees were mistreated by President Robert Mugabe’s regime. Labour and Lib Dem MPs have also called for a review, as a hunger strike among Zimbabwean detainees spreads.

The government insists it is safe to return failed applicants to Zimbabwe.

Forty-one Zimbabweans in Britain are starving themselves in protest at the lifting of a ban on deportations in November. In the first three months of 2005, 95 Zimbabweans were forcibly removed from the UK and 116 are scheduled to be returned to the country.

Mr Howitt [Labour MEP who speaks on foreign affairs and human rights for Labour MEPs and is vice-chairman of the human rights sub-committee of the European parliament] said reports by the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International of torture, political killings and assaults against opposition groups within Zimbabwe challenged the government’s position.

“What the government has said is that there are no specific reports of abuse against people who have been returned since the ban was lifted in November,” he said. “I don’t think we can have any real confidence that those returned will be safe.”