Landmark Zimbabwe Asylum Ruling

 17th November 2008
RLC calls on Government to grant Zimbabweans asylum as a result of
 today> '> s landmark court decision.

A landmark Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruling announced today
confirms that all Zimbabweans are at real risk of serious harm if
forced to go home, unless they can demonstrate allegiance to or
association with the Zimbabwean regime.  The Tribunal said they had no
doubt at all that anyone, aside from those who could demonstrate
positive loyalty to the regime, would be at risk. They further said
that there was no end in sight for such people. The RLC called on the
Government to grant asylum to this vulnerable group, rather than to
continue to challenge the clear view of the specialist Tribunal; an
approach which has left many Zimbabweans in destitution and limbo for a
period of years.

 In many respects this case goes even further than the landmark 2005
decision in the RLC> ‘> s case of AA which first found
Zimbabweans to be in need of protection, a decision which was
challenged by the Home Office and which has been the subject of
repeated litigation since then.


> As a result of that original case, there have been no removals to
Zimbabwe since August 2005, pending the outcome of the litigation,
although the Home Office has continued to try to remove some to
neighbouring countries, from where they can face deportation to
Zimbabwe.  Furthermore, during this period, many refused asylum seekers
from Zimbabwe have been given the stark choice of either returning
voluntarily to the country where they fear persecution or staying in
Britain and living in destitution. UNHCR figures suggest that there are
up to 11,500 refused Zimbabwean asylum seekers in Britain today. Most
asylum seekers who have been refused asylum receive no financial help
from the Government 21 days after losing their appeals. They are then
evicted from their accommodation and are not allowed to work. Given the
very real risk of human rights abuse in Zimbabwe it is unsurprising
that many have chosen destitution. After today, no Zimbabwean should be
forced to make that stark choice, and those who are currently destitute
should be offered immediate protection and support.

 Caroline Slocock, Chief Executive of the RLC, said today:

 "> We are delighted with this decision, which confirms the view taken

 by the RLC and many others since 2005 that there is a very real risk

 of serious harm for almost all Zimbabweans forced to return to that

 country.  The Government has spent the last three years contesting the

 view that Zimbabwean asylum seekers are at risk through various cases

 and in different courts.  It> ‘> s time for the Government to stop

 challenging the reality of Zimbabwe in the courts and to grant asylum

 to this vulnerable group, many of whom during this time have been left

 destitute and in limbo, unable to return and refused access to work,

 accommodation and benefits.> ">



 NOTES  1. The Refugee Legal Centre is the largest specialist national

provider of legal representation to asylum seekers and refugees. The

 RLC was awarded the Liberty/Justice Human Rights Award in 2005, in

 particular for its litigation work with Zimbabwean asylum seekers. For

 press enquiries contact Deri Hughes-Roberts (07790275690) or Caroline

 Slocock (07966021135). Caroline Slocock and other spokespeople are

 available for interview.  >


 2. The Home Office can apply for permission to appeal the decision in
the Court of Appeal, as it did in relation to the similar decision in
2005. As a result, many thousands of Zimbabwean asylum seekers would
remain in destitution. Alternatively, it can accept the decision and
grant asylum to Zimbabwean asylum seekers.


3. The case of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers originally came before
the High Court in an RLC Judicial Review in August 2005. The Home
Office agreed to suspend removals pending the outcome of the test case
to be heard by the specialist Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (the
AIT). The government had previously suspended forced removals from
January 2002 to November 2004. The AIT heard the case in October 2005.
It ruled that failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers were at real risk of
persecution because the fact that they had made an asylum claim in
Britain would be held against them. The Home Office appealed this
decision which was set aside by the Court of Appeal in April 2006. It
ordered that the case be reconsidered by the Tribunal. The case was
reheard in July 2006 and, this time, the AIT found in favour of the
Home Office. The RLC appealed this decision and, in March 2007, the
Court of Appeal agreed that the case had been wrongly decided. It
ordered another re-hearing. For technical reasons, another case (HS)
was selected to examine the same issue, and the AIT considered the case
in July 2007. The AIT refused permission to appeal to the Court of
Appeal in January 2008. The application for permission to appeal was
then made directly to the Court of Appeal on paper. It was refused. In
July, the Court of Appeal stayed the application for permission to
appeal to await the House of Lords judgment in another otherwise
unrelated appeal on a technical issue of law raised in the appellant’s
application. It is presently not known when that appeal will be heard.
Pending resolution of HS in the Court of Appeal (which is considered
highly unlikely to affect today> ‘> s ruling), a new RLC case,
again involving AA (along with other cases, was chosen as a new >
"> country guidance> ">  case for Zimbabwe, given the
deterioration in the country situation in the aftermath of the March
2008 presidential ballot.   Just before the AIT hearing, the Government
conceded our client AA> ‘> s claim and granted him refugee
status. The remaining case, RN,  not being run by RLC went ahead and a
determination has just been announced. 


 4. Please see the following link for more information on the
campaign against the destitution of asylum seekers, Still Human, Still

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