Anglican head concerned for failed Zimbabwe asylum seekers

October 18, 2010

Human rights activists have praised Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for showing concern about the safety problems failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers face if they are forced to return and live under the regime of President Robert Mugabe.

"I would love to see more and more Christians and church leaders follow his example and warn the British government that there must be checks and monitoring systems in place before these people are sent home," Sarah Harland, co-coordinator of the Zimbabwe Association told ENInews. "This is not the time for enforced returns."

Reports published in Britain state that up to 10,000 Zimbabweans could be forced to return to the land of their birth following a statement in the U.K. Parliament on Oct. 14 by immigration minister Damien Green.

He told lawmakers it is right to send asylum seekers back because of improved conditions in Zimbabwe following the formation of a Government of National Unity in 2009 between President Robert Mugabe, who heads the Zanu-PF party, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Tsvangirai recently expressed frustrations with Zanu-PF, which has ruled the southern African nation since 1980, as the heads of the army, police, air force, prisons and intelligence agency, known as the Joint Operations Command, remain under Mugabe's control, and there is no timetable for security sector reform and de-militarization of the state.

Some estimates say there are around 400,000 Zimbabweans living in Britain and among them are 10,000 to 11,000 failed asylum seekers, with thousands more awaiting decisions on their applications.

During his visit to the offices of the Refugee Council in London, on Oct. 7, Williams, the spiritual leader of the 77-million strong Anglican Communion, spoke to African refugees about their problems.

"I was concerned about the issue of protection, and the people sent back to their countries are not monitored," he said. "Without these checks, there's a risk that what the [U.K.] government regards as being safe may not be. If we look at situations like the one in Zimbabwe, I think there's a real question over whether people can be sent back safely to those countries."

On Oct. 18 three British high court judges were to attend a hearing in London on an immigration and asylum test case which will rule on whether it is safe, or not, to send asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe.

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