Do public disagreements between Zimbabwean focused human/civil rights protest groups in the UK help the genuinely active Zimbabwean asylum claimant?

I have always admired and continue to admire the various Zimbabwean focused human rights and civil society organisations active in protest in the UK advocating for positive change in Zimbabwe.  Whether or not the UK based activity emanates from well-established groups, newly formed ones  or even  via emergence of  social  media based activity,  the efforts are admirable nonetheless.

 

Regardless of the reasons for any  “ disagreements” which  are in the public domain between  various groups in the UK,  the  first thought for someone who represents politically active Zimbabwean asylum claimants in the UK  is this:  how does  this affect my client’s asylum claim?   What position will the Home Office take  publicly or internally  having regard to what has  been  put forth  in the public domain?  If  the Home office are to proceed by tactful stealth, will that  Home  Office Presenting Officer suddenly  present without notice  a print out online news article  on the morning of the appeal  hearing  seeking  unfairly  to  cast doubt  upon the bona fides  of my client’s asylum  claim?  How does  this  affect my client’s credibility?

 

On the other hand, one might ask: what actual tangible  results do these  UK based protests  engender for the Zimbabwean  asylum claimant in the UK?

 

Over the years, I have come across Zimbabwean asylum  claimants in  activism via  various UK based  groups  having their  asylum claims refused, subsequently winning their appeals and with this  leading to settlement in the UK.  Such persons are  making a positive contribution to the UK, socially and  economically.  Some  Zimbabwean nationals who have been granted  refugee status do not down tools, but  graduate  from  protests  outside Zimbabwe House combining this with  social media  activity etc.

 

Some years ago, a client from Zimbabwe approached me and  told  me that she was part of a  protest  based organization  in the UK.  She  gave me their name. I had never heard  of  them. She came to me when  her asylum claim had been refused  and wished  to  appeal the refusal of her claim. I  looked at the letter of support she had provided.  I  thought this will  never work.  Who were they?  I had never heard of them, I had no idea what they were  about and I felt I  could never justify enabling  this client  to obtain legal aid to proceed  with this  appeal.  I must confess my ignorance at the time in relation to this group- all I  had been used to from  2002, a  year when the UK authorities were  in effect  almost routinely    dishing out grants of   refugee status to Zimbabwean nationals, was assisting  progression of Zimbabwean asylum claims  associated with  just one well – known  political  party  in Zimbabwe.  In particular in  2002, the password required to be given to the Home Office  upon arrival in the UK  seemed to be, “ I  am Zimbabwean and I  am  a member  of the MDC”,   and a grant of settlement as a refugee  usually  followed  after asylum interview.

 

Having regard to the appealing client, one of my thoughts was that the  Immigration Judge  hearing the appeal would certainly  need to be convinced of the credibility  of this group,  what it stood for and how it could be said  the client’s association with the group would place  her at risk on return to Zimbabwe.  Once the  client  left the office I went straight to  “google”.   Suffice to say  by the time we left that appeal hearing,  we knew the appeal had been won-  the Immigration  Judge nodded approvingly whilst the client gave evidence and by  the time matters  came to oral submissions,  whilst  referring to  the  sourced background evidence regarding that particular group, the success of the appeal was evident. This is  but one  example where a genuine  active Zimbabwean  protester in the UK   was able to obtain leave to remain  as a refugee in the UK.

 

The same methods of  research in relation to sourcing appropriate background  evidence that applied to that  group years ago,  applies even now  to all other newly established protest groups etc.

 

Theoretically speaking,  can a resultant  seeming tarnshiment  of a protest  group inevitably lead to  a jaundiced view  being cast upon all other similar protest  groups? After all on the surface, to the observant outsider, the visible active methods of  protest  appear to be the same directed mainly towards  the same target.  Here then is where caution should lie.

 

Above all, where any public disagreements  continue,   what position might the Home Office take when considering asylum claims from  UK based politically active  Zimbabwean  nationals?  The Home Office  are not blind – they undertake independent  research  outwith  the current country information reports in their consideration of individual  asylum claims. Will the next Country Information Report  deliberately  incorporate  such published disagreements even long  past resolution or falling away of  the issues?   The Home Office may not hesitate to report  upon  disagreements   between UK  based human rights organisations/protest  groups especially  if a spike occurs in claims from  politically  active  Zimbabwean claimants in the UK in light of the  forthcoming elections in 2018.  After all,   the Home Office  have over the past years sought to incorporate   into previous  Reports,  disagreements  within Zimbabwean opposition groups :

 

“17.39 Africa Research Bulletin (volume 43 number 1), dated 1–31 January 2006 states that:

“Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has split into two parties, Welshman Ncube, the MDC’s secretary-general, said on January 12th. ‘It’s self-evident that we have parallel parties now. The issue is which of the two groups is the lawful and legal MDC.’ Mr Ncube’s dissident faction appointed MP Gibson Sibanda as its acting president; and plans to elect a new president at a congress in late February. In tacit acknowledgement that there are now two parties, some of its members are calling it the Pro-Democracy MDC.

“Morgan Tsvangirai, who still claims to be MDC president and retains mass support in urban areas across Zimbabwe, plans to hold his own national congress on March 18th–19th. Formerly one of Africa’s best organised opposition parties, the MDC has split over tactical issues and claims by Mr Tsvangirai’s opponents that he has condoned violence and ignored the will of party members. Mr Tsvangirai has rejected the claims…

“Dissident party members… criticised Mr Tsvangirai for his leadership style, including a reliance on an unelected ‘kitchen cabinet’ that took decisions without consulting elected party officials. The dissident faction claims Mr Tsvangirai scuppered an investigation into allegations that he deployed youth activists to beat up dissident party members, comparing him with Robert Mugabe, the country’s autocratic president…Since nearly winning a majority in parliament five years ago, the MDC has seen its influence wane. Sympathetic critics say it has failed to capitalise on Mr Mugabe’s unpopularity. The opposition has seen its representation in parliament fall over a series of elections that it, and some independent observers, claimed were rigged. The MDC also failed to exploit the discontent caused by the government’s mass evictions campaign in mid-2005 in which 700,000 people lost their homes.” – Zimbabwe COI Report June 2007.

 

The obvious practical question is  this: how do any such disagreements  help the genuinely active  UK based Zimbabwean  asylum claimant? How does all this   assist the asylum claimant who is  in genuine active participation  within such groups now  or the one who is considering  joining  the protest  for change whilst in the UK?

 

Will that active claimant who is  seeking to present his  asylum claim or appeal  tomorrow react with  joy, alarm or hopelessness  upon reception of such disagreements?

 

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