Late in 2018, ‘re-documentation interviews’ took place at several reporting centres across the UK, conducted by Zimbabwean government officials with the permission of the Home Office. Since then at least two people who were subject to these interviews were detained, including Victor Mujakachi, a longstanding volunteer with ASSIST Sheffield and advocate with NACCOM’s community reporter group. This is a blog to update on some of the actions that have taken place since the initial interviews.
In December there was coverage in the Independent and on the Sheffield Live news channel of the redocumentation interviews. The South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) organised a regional demonstration (the second that year in support of Zimbabwean people seeking asylum). Meanwhile, the UK Immigration Justice Watch wrote a blog on the impact and risks of the ‘repatriation’ agreement between British and Zimbabwean government officials.
On 9th January, the Zimbabwean Human Rights organisation (ZHRO), including representatives from NACCOM member CAST Southend, delivered a petition to Downing Street calling for protection of Zimbabweans living in the UK. The petition, which was written and produced by the ZHRO, can be found here.
Throughout January, news spread of in-country violence (see the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights tweet) and Amnesty International highlighted key concerns in a report. On the 22nd January, the Foreign Secretary updated the House of Commons on ‘widespread unrest’ in Zimbabwe and there was a parliamentary debate on the issue at the end of the month.
On Monday 11th February, two Zimbabweans connected to NACCOM member ASSIST Sheffield were detained and told their removal was imminent. Their arrests garnered national coverage in the Guardian (see here, here and here), the Metro and elsewhere, alongside local media in Sheffield. Petitions were started for both detainees, Khuzani and Victor, the latter of which attracted nearly 70,000 signatures within days of its launch.
Solidarity with Zimbabweans at risk across the UK, as well as support for Victor and Khuzani specifically, has been evident by local and national activism and, encouragingly, a significant amount of parliamentary advocacy. For instance this week alone there was a parliamentary debate in the House of Lords and a question to the Immigration Minister by MP Kate Hoey. On Wednesday of this week, Sheffield MP Gill Furniss highlighted how work was still needed to ensure lasting protection despite some positive developments in Victor’s case.
Since then, Victor has been released and is now back in Sheffield. But the work doesn’t end there. On the 19th February there will be demonstrations in Sheffield organised by SYMAAG, and actions are being undertaken elsewhere to raise awareness of the continuing risks. This is important as, despite the great news about Victor’s release, in the words of a recent tweet by ASSIST, ‘more needs to be done to protect asylum seekers from being forcibly returned to Zimbabwe’.