The British government said Thursday that it will resume deportations of unsuccessful Zimbabwean asylum seekers to their country following a ministerial decision that the political situation in the Southern African nation is relatively stable and that humanitarian conditions have greatly improved since the Harare unity government launched in 2009.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said in a statement that the change in asylum policy does not reflect any change in Britain's position objecting to alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. He said London will continue to grant protection to Zimbabweans who have a well-founded fear of persecution if they return to the country.
"The courts have found that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection and given the improved situation on the ground in Zimbabwe since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, the time is now right to bring our policy on returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers into line with that on every other country," he said.
"This will mean that failed asylum seekers from Zimbabwe will from now on be treated in exactly the same way as failed asylum seekers of all other countries when it comes to enforcing returns," Green said.
But immigration lawyers said the announcement came as a surprise given that a tribunal is sitting later this month to rule on a case that was expected to provide guidance on the question of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers.
Sarah Harland, coordinator of the Zimbabwe Association, a leading Zimbabwean organization in the United Kingdom, said it is unfair of authorities to deport people when it is clear that rights abuses continue to occur.
The Zimbabwe Association "does not believe that this is the right time for enforced returns, with control of the state security forces ... remaining in the hands of the perpetrators of violence," Harland said.
Harland noted that a recent international report on the rule of law in Zimbabwe concluded that "there has been no improvement and quite possibly a further decline in respect for the rule of law" since the September 2008 signature of the Global Political Agreement for power sharing that laid the basis for the unity government.
However, Harland applauded the British government for declaring that it will continue to give refuge to those Zimbabweans who continue to have a well-founded fear of persecution.
Zimbabwean lawyer Taffie Nyawanza told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that failed asylum seekers still have some options to ensure they are not deported back to Zimbabwe.