At least 14 Zimbabweans have been forcibly sent home from Britain after their chartered plane was last night delayed for almost one hour while lawyers representing some of them made frantic efforts to stop their deportation.
In an interview, Andrew Nyamayaro, one of the attorneys representing the deportees, said indications are that only a few Zimbabweans were deported instead of the 50 that were targeted by the Home Office, which noted that some of them were convicted murderers and rapists.
Nyamayaro said, “Yesterday there was a deportation of Zimbabweans from the United Kingdom. Originally, it was 50 people that were intended to be deported but after some legal fight some got injunctions, some had removal orders deferred and some had other reasons why they could not be returned to Zimbabwe. There was also a last minute case that went into court around 6:00pm U.K time and around 8:30pm it was finished which said that the charter flight can proceed but people that had been interviewed for travel documents by the home office personal are at risk of persecution if they get to Zimbabwe.
“So, the charter flight was scheduled for 10:00pm but the judge said it can leave after 10:30pm to give a chance to anyone who was on board who was interviewed by the Zimbabwean authorities in the U.K to leave the plane and then to return to the detention center. I think they did that process. Most lawyers, including ourselves, we then tried to get in touch with the people that had been intended to leave the country but because when they leave the deportation center their mobile phones are taken off them, we could not contact them. It was confirmed this morning that 14 people have now been deported to Zimbabwe and as we speak they are being taken to a quarantine center in Harare at a place called ZIPAM. That’s where they are going to do their isolation there.”
In Harare, video footage of their arrivals monitored on several digital and social media platforms from Washington, showed a couple of people boarding two buses with police monitoring their movements.
The Associated Press reports that some of the deportees some had stayed in that country for decades and forced to leave families behind to face an uncertain future back home.
Rights groups and politicians in Britain had mounted pressure to stop the deportations, arguing that the deportees are at risk of persecution in Zimbabwe.
The first group of deported Zimbabweans was people convicted of committing crimes in Britain.
The United Kingdom says it has a right to deport foreigners who commit serious crimes after they serve out their sentences.
Zimbabwean authorities dismissed fears that the returnees would be persecuted.
On Thursday, 14 of the deportees arrived at the main airport in the capital, Harare, and were quickly put into waiting buses to go to a quarantine center where they will stay for 10 days before they can rejoin their families.
Distraught relatives waited outside the Harare airport Thursday but were not able to meet the deportees.
Although there are no exact figures, scores of thousands left Zimbabwe for the UK, the former colonial power, to escape a biting political and economic crisis at the turn of the century.
Many Zimbabweans whose bids for asylum were rejected by Britain also face deportation.
The Associated Press also contributed to this article