Sunday, July 06, 2008

Zimbabwe and the UK's Caring Border Agency

The Observer reports on Britain's reprehensible attack on Zimbabwean refugees and asylum seekers. "Britain is forcing as many as 11,000 Zimbabweans seeking refuge here to make a stark choice between destitution or returning home to possible torture or death". Why are refugees and asylum seekers forbidden from working? It's almost as if immigration policy and asylum is biased towards the independently wealthy. That couldn't possibly be the case under a Labour government. Tell me I'm wrong.

As the Observer reports
A UK Border Agency spokeswoman said that, although the agency was sending out letters ordering failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers to return home, it had no plans to start forced removals. 'We always seek to assist anyone who wishes to return,' she said.
So there are no plans for early morning raids and the barbarity of forced removals, just give people the option: living in the UK with no financial or social support or return to Zimbabwe. That's not putting people in shit creek without a paddle, is it? Crap choice one, or crap choice two. Isn't the Border Agency wonderful? Make life so intolerable in the UK that anywhere seems better. Wonderful.

You can read the official UK Border Agency Operational Guidance Note (OGN) on the state of Zimbabwe here Zimbabwe OGN.

It's full of descriptions of what someone has to show to remain in the UK. If they do not show what is required then they can be deported back to Zimbabwe. They may get returned from whence they came. If they're lucky they may be "internally relocated" in Zimbabwe.

Someone sitting in a comfortable office in the UK makes a decision on the condition of Zimbabwe and threats to another person's life and liberty. That hardly seems the actions of a government that believes in fairness, justice, internationalism, international law, and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

The OGN "provides guidance on whether or not an individual making a claim is likely to face a real risk of persecution, unlawful killing or torture or inhuman or degrading treatment/ punishment". A liberal interpretation of this notice would make almost any claimant successful - and I think that's a good thing. However the likelihood is the interpretation is anything but liberal.

Section 3.6 looks at members of the MDC and states:
3.6.6 Internal relocation. Where the ill-treatment or persecution feared is at the hands of the state itself and the threat is credible, relocation to a different part of the country to escape this threat is not feasible.

3.6.7 Where the threat is from local ZANU-PF activists or locally based war veterans so that the claimant is at risk in their home area, the question of whether internal relocation is a reasonable option must in each case be considered on its merits taking into account the fact that there is a network of information available to ZANU-PF and war veterans.
3.6.9 Conclusion. Each case must be decided on its individual facts to determine whether a particular applicant is at risk, and, if they are, whether internal relocation is available. MDC activists who are able to establish that their political activities will mean that they are of serious adverse interest to the present regime in Zimbabwe will have a well-founded fear of persecution. It is unlikely that they will be able to relocate internally, and therefore it is likely that a grant of asylum will be appropriate.

3.6.10 Not all MDC activists, supporters or members will be able to show that they are known to the authorities or ZANU-PF activists or war veterans. For example, taking part in mass demonstrations, or being assaulted in random violence associated with the demonstration, is unlikely to result in an ongoing interest. It is therefore unlikely that such individuals would be able to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, and even if they could do so in their home area, internal relocation may be available. Where this is a feasible option for the individual and would not be unreasonable, such a claim will not warrant a grant of asylum or Humanitarian Protection.

3.6.11 However, where a low level activist, supporter or member is able credibly to show that their activities have resulted in them personally coming to the serious adverse attention of the authorities, ZANU-PF etc., they may be able to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution. Such a person would not be able to rely on the protection of the state and it is unlikely that that they would be able to relocate internally, therefore it is likely that a grant of asylum will be appropriate.
My reading of that is that all a Zimbabwean has to do is plead membership of the MDC and "demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution" and they qualify for "asylum or Humanitarian Protection". Now what is the bar set to on "demonstrating a well-founded fear of persecution". Does the Border Agency require videos of threats? Written death threats?

The UK government cannot say that the situation is intolerable in Zimbabwe but we are sending thousands of people back anyway, without coming across as total bastards.

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