Home Office to deport Zimbabwean family who fled Mugabe’s regime

priviledge_thulambo_centre_and_her_daughters_valerie_and_lorraine.jpg Priviledge Thulambo, (centre) and her daughters Valerie and Lorraine  A Zimbabwean woman and her two daughters who

Priviledge Thulambo, 39, whose husband was murdered by Robert Mugabe’s
men, and her children are being detained in a controversial immigration
centre after being seized by immigration officers on Friday.

Friends of the family said the Home Office would be guilty of "murder
by the back door" by deporting the three women. They are all Zimbabwean
nationals, but because they entered the UK on Malawian passports – the
only way they could escape the Mugabe regime – eight years ago, they
have had their claims for asylum rejected.

After spending Christmas in the grim surroundings of the Yarl’s Wood
detention centre, they will be forced on to a flight to Malawi on 29
December. Because of their Zimbabwean nationality they are likely to be
immediately sent to their home country, where they face torture or
death.

They are in this desperate situation despite UK government policy that
no Zimbabwean nationals will be sent back there unless they are members
of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

It follows criticism last week of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, who
warned cabinet colleagues of an "influx" of Zimbabwean refugees fleeing
the cholera outbreak.

Mrs Thulambo and her daughters Valerie, 20, and Lorraine, 18, have
spent eight years in the UK. Mrs Thulambo’s Cambridge-educated husband,
Macca, was killed for his links to opposition leaderMorgan Tsvangirai.
His widow tried to leave Zimbabwe but was arrested at the airport, and
later tortured and raped.

She and her daughters fled to neighbouring Malawi, where they obtained
passports because of her late husband’s dual nationality. Immigration
officials seized Mrs Thulambo’s Zimbabwean passport during their arrest
at dawn on Friday.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, the family’s former MP, said
it was wrong to assess them as Malawian for immigration purposes.

He added: "It is time this Government gets tough on Mugabe, not his
victims. This case illustrates the heartless approach from a Home
Office more willing to deport people to their fate rather than do the
right thing. Taking such a legalistic approach to Priviledge and her
daughters shows that the Home Office is seeking to find any excuse or
loophole to deport Zimbabwean nationals."

Mrs Thulambo is an active member of her local church, St Mark’s, in
Crookes, Sheffield. Valerie was looking forward to studying law at
university after passing her A-levels, friends said. According to
Kirsten Heywood, a family friend: "As soon as they arrive in Malawi
they will be sent back to Zimbabwe – which means death. It is terrible
what the Home Office is doing. This is back-door murder."

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Clegg said: "I have met Mrs
Thulambo on several occasions. She has suffered severe mental and
physical health problems after the persecution she and her family
suffered in Zimbabwe. She has become a respected and well-liked member
of the community; her daughters attended the local schools and have
integrated into society and have many friends.

"I believe this is a clear-cut case for the Home Office to demonstrate
clemency and leniency on Mrs Thulambo’s case and on others like her."

The Home Office yesterday declined to comment on individual cases, but
added: "We only seek to remove families who are in the UK unlawfully
after all appeal rights have been used and the courts agree that they
have no further right to remain in the UK.

"Once all appeal rights are exhausted, we would much rather that those
here illegally left voluntarily. Sadly, some families choose not to do
so even though they are given every opportunity to leave voluntarily.
We then have a duty to enforce the law."

Meanwhile, a landmark ruling has given hope to thousands of
impoverished asylum-seekers, including those from Zimbabwe, who are
barred from working while the Home Office resolves their cases. The
Government’s refusal to allow those who are trapped in the system for
long periods to seek employment has been branded unlawful by the High
Court.

According to current estimates, up to 280,000 refused asylum-seekers in
the UK are forced into destitution – often for years – as they wait for
their cases to be processed. Now the blanket policy that bars
employment for those stuck in the Home Office backlog has been declared
illegal under human rights legislation.

The Government has pledged to process its backlog of several hundred
thousand cases by 2011, but for many this could mean facing a life of
poverty for up to a decade with no hope of a job.

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