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UK Home Office in Spotlight Over Zimbabwe Asylum Cases

The British Appeals Court on Monday sent back to a lower court a test case regarding Zimbabwean asylum seekers after it emerged the country’s Home Office had deliberately failed to disclose significant evidence in the matter during deliberations.

Legal experts say the case, first heard in 2010, involves the Home Office’s attempts to force failed asylum-seekers to return home and ‘lie’ about their political affiliation to avoid persecution, so the UK can reduce immigration numbers.

But four Zimbabwean respondents claim they will face a real risk of persecution if deported.

Brighton Mutebuka, a principal lawyer at Mutebuka & Co Immigration Lawyers, based in Leeds, told VOA the Home Office conceded that their action was unlawful.

“The Upper Tribunal judges will look at all the evidence afresh including evidence that hadn’t been disclosed and of course they will also look at the current political developments in Zimbabwe and then provide a thorough country guidance case which will then form future guidance in Zimbabwean asylum and human rights cases.

“But we remain unclear as to which direction the court is likely to take as the political situation in Zimbabwe is fluid whereas the situation moving into the national elections in March 2008 was much more clear cut,” Mutebuka said.

Chengetai Mupara, a human rights and immigration lawyer practicing in the UK said although the case focuses on a handful of Zimbabweans whose asylum claims were rejected, it will have implications for asylum seekers from other foreigners in the UK, and could set a disturbing precedent forces people to return to their countries and pretend that they support bad governments.

He added: “The fact of the matter is that there are some Zimbabweans who do not have firm political views in support of either Zanu PF or the MDC but they still claim they will face persecution in Zimbabwe because if they are asked to demonstrate their support and loyalty to Zanu PF – through repeating Zanu PF slogans or songs - they will not be able to do that.”

“The Home Office is saying people like them could go back to Zimbabwe and when asked to demonstrate such loyalty they could lie about their true political views and state that they support Zanu PF in order to evade persecution.”