A controversial judgement that prevented the UK government from returning any asylum seekers to Zimbabwe is being challenged in the Court of Appeal today (Monday March 6th).
The government is challenging the ruling, from October last year, in which the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal judged that it was unsafe to deport asylum seekers to Zimbabwe, and that refugee status should currently be given to anyone from that country.
Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of The Refugee Council, says she hopes the appeal will be turned down.
“The original ruling backed up what The Refugee Council has been saying all along – that it is incredibly dangerous to send people back to Zimbabwe at this time. We hope very much that the judges will throw out this appeal.”
But she added that the safety of Zimbabweans should not just be left to the courts:
“The safety of human beings should always be more important than statistical targets. The government should restore the moratorium on returns to Zimbabwe which prohibits returning anyone while the situation is so potentially dangerous. Ministers expressed concern that such a policy would create an open-door for asylum seekers – but statistics show that this simply hasn’t happened. (1)”
Since the ruling in October, most Zimbabwean asylum seekers have effectively been left destitute, as they get no financial or accommodation support, cannot work and cannot go home.
Notes to Editors
1. In the final quarter of 2005, just 385 people applied for asylum from Zimbabwe. Although an increase, this figures contrasts with government fears that people would try and exploit the fact that there was no way of returning them. See http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html
2. Please contact the press office for interview availability with Maeve Sherlock.