Is Mnangagwa’s New  Government paving the way for  UK mass removals of failed Zimbabwean Asylum Claimants ?

Three months.  That is  the amount of time the UK Government  gave  undocumented Zimbabweans before broaching  the subject of enforcing their return  following Mugabe’s ouster on 21 November 2017.  Time to come down from the  lingering  false high induced  by Mugabe’ s departure, back to a crashing reality and forlorn acceptance  that,  “Hapana zvambochinja muZimbabwe”, ie nothing much has changed in Zimbabwe.

Apparently, it has been reported by various Zimbabwean media outlets on 13 February 2018, that one of Zimbabwe’s Vice Presidents,  Kembo Mohadi met  with the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Catriona Lang in Harare. An interesting array of  subjects came up for discussion,  however the one  that has made the headlines is an announcement by the British  Government of its intention  to  repatriate some 2500 undocumented Zimbabweans  residing  in the UK.  It has been  reported that  the Vice President   told journalists after the meeting that,  “ Zimbabwean has no problems receiving its nationals back but would want them vetted  to ensure  they are genuine  Zimbabweans before taking them back”.

It is no secret, at least from 2010, that the UK government  has been  keen to  enforce removals to Zimbabwe- https://www.gov.uk/government/news/enforced-returns-to-zimbabwe-will-resume.  Yesterday’s headlines therefore should not unduly alarm.   The  persistent  problem for the UK Government  has  been the  seeming  unsurmountable obstacle erected by the Zimbabwean government whilst under Mugabe’s rule.  Since Restrictive Measures were installed in 2002,  the Zimbabwean Government has  required the returnee’s consent before issuing an emergency travel document ( ETD in ) relation to enforced returns.  In practice,  to the UK Government’s chagrin,  this has meant over the years, that  non- consenting Zimbabwean failed  asylum seekers, deportees who have exhausted  their rights of appeal and  those without leave,   generally  have been  irremovable.

The   position of the Zimbabwean authorities  has therefore been  that they will only accept voluntary returnees. The dilemma  faced  by the UK Government has  increasingly  been highlighted  by successive  recent litigation in the UK Courts.  Relevant blog articles in this regards are as follows:

The Zimbabwean government has stated, as any  Government should, that it will accept its own nationals however having regard to the  fact that the discussions  with the  British Ambassador  seem to have taken  place  behind closed doors, the pressing  issue  is whether  it is  now  a “ done deal” that  the Zimbabwean government has as of 13th February 2018 agreed to relax  the manner and procedures  which it will employ to re-document failed asylum claimants  to Zimbabwe.

 

Issue of a Zimbabwean Emergency Travel Document:

The Country Returns Guide published  on 5 February 2018 is relevant  and current as at that date  for consideration in relation to  seeking to ascertain  the minimum requirements applicable before the Zimbabwean Government  will issue an Emergency Travel Document https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/country-returns-guide

  • Submission letter
  • Bio-data form
  • 4 photographs of passport standard, cut  to size
  • Supporting evidence, if available
  • Full UK birth certificate must be provided for children born in the UK
  • All supportive evidence accompanying a travel document must be translated into English
  • Fee £80

The Guide is currently clear that , “The Embassy will only issue a travel document where the individual is returning voluntarily  and has signed  a disclaimer in their presence to that effect”.

A travel document issued would be valid for 6months.

As regards applications for a Temporary Travel Document, Information from the Zimbabwean Embassy website currently  states, http://www.zimlondon.gov.zw/index.php/consular-services/applying-for-a-temporary-travel-document:

Application for a Temporary Travel Document.

Please be advised that a Temporary Travel Document can ONLY be applied for in person at the Embassy, in emergency circumstances, where the Zimbabwe Passport is not available for travel. All TTDs are now issued on condition that the applicant applies for a passport with the Embassy as well.

Applicants are required to bring along the following:

  1. Old/Expired Passport (if lost, applicants are required to produce a Police Report or a letter from the Home Office);
  2. Long Birth Certificate;
  3. National Identity Card (Paper type, metal type or plastic type)
  4. Two Passport sized colour photographs, and
  5. £80 in Cash or Postal Order

Where applying for  Zimbabwean passport,  the relevant information  is as  follows, http://www.zimlondon.gov.zw/index.php/consular-services/requirements-for-passport-application:

Requirements for application for a Zimbabwean passport

Please be advised that applicants need to COME in person and submit your application form because applicants need to have their fingerprints taken at the Embassy

The following documents are required when submitting the application form:

1.Original and photocopy of Zimbabwean Long Birth Certificate;

2.Original and photocopy of National  Identity Card (ID)(Paper type, metal type or plastic type), for those who turn 16. Kindly be advise that all Zimbabwean children who have turned 16 years of age are required to obtain Zimbabwe National Registration Cards (IDs), by law, before they can apply for Zimbabwe Passports.The registration cards can only be obtained by going to Zimbabwe to make the application in person.

3.Marriage Certificate and photocopy, (for married women – ID should be in married name);

4.Proof of Citizenship, if claiming citizenship in Zimbabwe by Descent, Registration or Naturalisation;

5.Old/Expired Passport plus photocopy of bio-data page for new type passport or pages 1 to 5 for old-type Passport or letter from Home Office;

6.A fee of £65 in Cash or Postal Order

Children below 18 years should be accompanied by either parents or Legal Guardian, with I.D card or valid Passport to sign Section 5 of the Passport form;

Parents and Legal Guardians of children below 18 years whose dependents are not resident in the United Kingdom need to sign Section 5 at the Embassy and send it to their dependents.

  • 2 x colour photographs of 4.5cm long by 3.5cm wide dimensions, taken from a studio with a WHITE background and applicants should wear DARK coloured upper clothes.
  • Consular Office is open between 09:00am and 12:30pm, Monday to Friday.

INFORMATION REGARDING PROCESSING OF PASSPORT APPLICATIONS

All passport applicants please take note of the following information:

1.Processing of passport application, including payment of processing fee is done in Zimbabwe. This procedure can either be done by the applicant when he/she travels to Zimbabwe or by a third party nominee residing in Zimbabwe who is a relative of the applicant.

2.It is the responsibility of the applicant to send the application form to Zimbabwe for processing.

3.Passport application forms can be processed at any nearest Passport Office in Zimbabwe. NB: all emergency passports (one day) are processed in Harare.

4.Passport processing fees to be paid at the Passport Office in Zimbabwe are:

US$50 for a passport that is processed in six weeks

US$250 for a passport that is processed in two weeks

US$315 for a passport that is processed in one day.

  1. A complete passport application form to be sent to Zimbabwe   should consist of the following documents:
  1. the stamped passport application form (P1)
  2. certified copies of birth certificate, I.D. and relevant pages of the old passport; including the page affixed the visa sticker/ proof of residence
  3. stamped passport size photos
  4. original receipt issued by the Embassy (retain a copy)
  5. the letter authorising your nominee to submit the application and also collect the new passport once it is issued.

Once the new passport is ready for collection, the applicant is required to tender the old passport to the Embassy for cancellation and then fax copies of the cancelled passport to the nominee to enable him/her to collect the new passport.

 

Potential Impact of the “Announcement”:

There is no  shield against removals of failed asylum seekers  to Zimbabwe where they have no pending  claims/applications/appeals.  That “ protection” has not been  there for several  years, however the concern  is that where  the Zimbabwean government   has agreed to relax the procedure  for the issue of emergency travel documents e.g by not requiring  a person’s consent before issue of such a document,  then the Home office will be in a position to detain  and remove  much more quickly.

The risk of  detention  and removal is most high for those who  report yet have no pending claims.

Where a failed asylum seeker  has pending further submissions,   such a claim could  be refused without a right of appeal and  the  person  simultaneously  served with the decision upon reporting   with  detention  also being effected.

In circumstances where an Article 8, human rights private and family life application is made but refused and certified,  with either no right of appeal or an out-of-country right of appeal provided, again the Home Office can chose to  serve a decision  with detention  occurring at the same time.

A readiness to issue emergency travel documents  by the Zimbabwean Embassy further affects  the success of bail applications for Zimbabwean nationals  who are detained. Where the Home office are able to  argue on   the facts of a specific  case that removal is imminent   due to   recent issue of a travel document by the Zimbabwean authorities, or an  expectation  of issue of such a document within a fairly short time, then a Tribunal Judge may be  hesitant in granting bail.

It is important to remember that each case is considered on its own merits- even where a refusal decision is served, say with no  right of appeal, a claim for judicial review may be pursued seeking to obtain an in-country right of appeal.  A stay on removal may also be obtained  via judicial review proceedings. A prolonged  detention  can be challenged  by way of judicial review. A bail application to the Tribunal to obtain release from detention will also be one of the first issues for consideration   A further leave to remain application, where relevant  can always  be  submitted following a previous refusal decision.

 

How does the announcement  concern claims for asylum from Zimbabwean nationals?

The current issues in play  concern  how readily and reasonably quickly   the UK government  can procedurally  take steps to enforce a removal to Zimbabwe for  persons without  current Zimbabwean passports.  It has always been the case for several years now that those with current valid Zimbabweans are being removed where they have been found to have no further basis of stay in the UK. Issues regarding whether or not a person can submit a new claim for asylum, protection based further submissions  and matters of risk of return are not  affected – these are matters that Mohadi could  not have contributed to in any  meaningful  way on 13 February 2018. It is for UK based Home Office Caseworkers  to make decisions on  registered asylum claims emanating from Zimbabwean nationals.

Is it in order that the British authorities would  consider it appropriate  at this juncture to seek to open up the subject of Zimbabwean  mass removals when elections due this year have not  yet been held?  Mnangagwa  has promised  free,  fair and credible elections, however whether  the issue of violence from ZANU(PF) and the army can be contained immediately  before or after the elections is another  matter.

Perhaps  the announcement  on returns is an indicator  of  whether a new  Home office Zimbabwe Country Information Note  due to published  by the Home Office,  has  restricted even  further the categories of those that might be considered at risk on return to Zimbabwe. Time will tell, however for now, in relation to those who are undocumented who have not yet  taken steps to regularise their status, so  was to avoid the distress,  alarm and shock that an unexpected detention brings,  it might be prudent to  ensure  there is a viable  and  effective claim pending with the Home Office.

Pending any  relevant publications or Announcements  from the Home Office  on the issue, it is also well worth having regard to the next Country Returns Guide in the following months  so as to consider whether the above mentioned requirements  for issue of  a Zimbabwean Emergency Travel Document have been amended.

 

 

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