Labour MPs from Sheffield have joined a national cross-party effort to stop the deportation of up to 50 Zimbabwean asylum seekers reportedly set for this week.
Critics from all major political parties on Monday, July 19, wrote to Priti Patel warning that a charter flight to Harare due to fly on Wednesday must be “urgently halted” and any and all removals to Zimbabwe must be stopped until its government “ends its gross human rights violations”.
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A joint letter by Sheffield MPs Paul Blomfield, Clive Betts, Olivia Blake, Gill Furniss and Louise Haigh called on the Home Secretary to “personally review each case” and halt the removal until ”all individuals considered for deportation are given access to sufficient legal advice”. The letter reads:
Political persecution remains an extremely dangerous possibility in Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa’s presidency, and it is vital that the UK does its duty to protect those at risk from violence or oppression.
It is concerning that the flight has been reported to be part of a political deal between the UK and the Zimbabwean Government, hastening the pace at which these deportations occur and hence potentially undermining access to legal support for the detainees.
The MPs also write that “advocacy groups advise us that some of those on the flight are democracy activists who fled political persecution and will face it again if they are returned”.
Paul Blomfield MP said was the duty of the home secretary to ensure that all those seeking asylum in the UK have proper access to legal advice and that due process is followed. He added:
This flight must be stopped until it is certain that all individuals have had legal advice, as is their right.
Meanwhile, a Home Office spokesperson told The Independent that each individual assessment was made using the latest available information and any relevant case law. Said the official:
Foreign criminals who abuse our hospitality should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.
The national letter, coordinated by the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Lord Jonathan Oares, accused the Zimbabwean government of systemically oppressing its political opponents, denying freedom of speech and committing gross human rights violations.