The Guardian has reported that the Home Office is suspected of holding an illegal interview with a Zimbabwean asylum seeker.
A good number of Zimbabweans have been interviewed by Zimbabwean Government Officials from the Zimbabwean embassy, in Home Office centres up and down the UK over the last year. It was picked up by a charity, dedicated to providing asylum seekers with support, the Home Office has been working closely with Zimbabwe’s newly elected government to muscle on ahead with the deportation of refused asylum seekers in the United Kingdom, this is despite many peoples accusations against Zimbabwe about human right abuses in the country.
In 2017, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s old president was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa. There were hopes that this new government would bring political reform to the country. Since his forced takeover of Zimbabwe, there have been reports of abductions and beatings by the country’s police and military, this has been condemned by the international community.
An example of one of these “illegal interviews” is that of a Zimbabwean woman, who has been in the United Kingdom for over 16 years and is reported to have an ongoing asylum claim, she was invited to the Vulcan House, a home office building in Sheffield where she found two Zimbabwean government Officials waiting there to speak to her.
The Home Office has called these interviews “Redocumentation interviews” that are used to establish the identity of a refused asylum seeker to aid with travel documentation that’ll be issued upon removal of the United Kingdom.
The Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes received a letter from Paul Blomfield, the MP for Sheffield Central that said the Zimbabwean woman’s claim to asylum was outstanding and apparently subjecting this woman to such an interview went against immigration rules, the woman submitted her last asylum claim in October 2018.
Blomfield’s office announced that they’d received legal advice that pointed toward the Home Office’s actions being highly illegal. The immigration rules state that you cannot take any action on an asylum seeker whose asylum claim has not yet been decided. In this letter, the MP voiced his concerns, saying that the interview had put his constituent at greater risk of persecution by the Zimbabwean government.
Mr Blomfield has stated on record that the interview was an “extremely intimidating experience” for his constituent, he also went onto say that this experience would’ve been shared by other Zimbabweans up and down the country. He’s added that it appeared to be “part of a general policy in relation to Zimbabwean nationals”.
“It also obviously puts her at greater risk of persecution by the Zimbabwean government,” he said. “The asylum policy instruction also sets out that, whilst information may be disclosed to other government departments or organisations to help them in their functions, nothing will be shared that would put the claimant at risk of persecution until the final decision on the fresh claim has been made; therefore, the presence of the Zimbabwean officials clearly contravenes this guidance.”
He went onto voice his concerns further, stating “I am seriously concerned about the process that has been undertaken, which appears to contravene the overcharging policy of fair treatment of asylum seekers and to engage in a policy of intimidation and repatriation of asylum seekers.”
A Home Office spokesperson said, “Re-documentation interviews with officials from receiving countries are a standard part of the Home Office returns process.”
“These interviews are conducted where an asylum claim has failed and it is necessary to establish nationality and identity and to enable a travel document to be produced to facilitate return. They do not have a bearing on an asylum application.