The UK government has been called on to suspend deportations to Zimbabwe in light of human rights abuses in the country.
Speaking in the House of Lords after it emerged that two Zimbabwean nationals refused asylum were set to be returned, the crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool said it would be “prudent” to suspend deportations given reports of arrests and torture under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Labour’s Peter Hain said: “In the current climate in Zimbabwe – which is a human rights-free zone, with President Mnangagwa and his military henchmen cracking down on individual freedom and particularly the opposition – nobody should be deported, especially when their families are protesting about the desperate situation they will probably face.”
The Home Office has been criticised for working with the new Zimbabwean government to push ahead with a removals process for refused asylum seekers, many of whom have been in the UK for over a decade. Two refused asylum seekers were detained at the Home Office’s Vulcan House building in Sheffield on Monday and were told they could be returned to Zimbabwe within days.
One of the men detained was Victor Mujakachi, who came to the UK as a postgraduate student in 2003. Zimbabwean authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 2008 after he made critical comments online about the re-election of Mugabe.
On Wednesday, following appeals from his MP and 7,500 people who signed a petition for his release, Mujakachi was given a three-month window in which he will not be removed from the UK.
Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said that while she was pleased by the news, Mujakachi was still in detention and efforts to get him released were continuing.
“The outpouring of support for such a valued member of our community has been amazing and has played no small part in ensuring for now, Victor is safe,” she said. “My team and I will be working over the coming weeks to help Victor return to his family and secure his future in Sheffield.”
Responding to comments in the Lords, the Home Office minister Lady Williams of Trafford said: “The UK continues to call for the government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law and human rights and to promote free and fair elections under the protection of the 2013 constitution and international human rights law.
“The Home Office only seeks to return those whose asylum claim has been unsuccessful. They are by definition not at risk on return. All protection claims from Zimbabwean nationals are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.”