Deportations to Zimbabwe are to remain on hold until October after asylum seekers’ cases were adjourned at the High Court.
Justice Collins adjourned the test cases being brought by the Refugee Legal Centre representing Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers. The lawyers were seeking to demonstrate that Zimbabweans returning to Mugabe’s regime faced danger because of the fact that they claimed asylum in the UK. Justice Collins “stayed” the cases while the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) looks at new evidence of the current situation in Zimbabwe. The AIT will hear one test case to set out definitive guidance.
The Home Office has decided to halt further deportations in order to allow “sufficient time to give full and careful consideration to additional material presented by the Refugee Legal Centre”. They have indicated that they would consider the test case outcome as critical to their policy of returning failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe, although they have not currently changed their position.
In response to the decision of Justice Collins in the High Court, Tim Finch, Director of Communications at the Refugee Council said:
“As a result of today’s hearing no more asylum seekers will be returned to Zimbabwe until at least October and that will be a huge relief to the men and women who faced being flown back to the country as early as tonight or tomorrow. Many of them are opponents of Mugabe and they would have been in real danger if they’d been sent home. Today’s developments also mean that Zimbabweans locked up in detention centres – more than a hundred in all – should have a much better chance of being released on bail.
“The comments of the judge show that ministers are under intense pressure to back down and stop all returns to Zimbabwe until the situation there improves radically. This is clearly the right thing to do and the government should act now. There is no need for any more expensive and time consuming court hearings when everyone can see that returning people to Zimbabwe is so unsafe. “
Barry Stoyle, Chief Executive of the Refugee Legal Centre, said:
“We are very concerned at the dangers faced by asylum seekers who are returned to Zimbabwe. We are pleased that the Court has agreed there is an arguable case that they face persecution. We look forward to being able to argue the matter in full before the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.”
“We are concerned that some Zimbabwean asylum seekers are still detained. It is now only proper for the Home Office to release all detained Zimbabwean detainees pending the outcome of the test cases.”
Read our Special Report: Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers have short reprieve from deportation
BBC: Zimbabwe removals still on hold
Guardian:Zimbabweans allowed to stay in ‘safe’ country policy review