If brought to full life without regard to due process and safeguards, the repatriation agreement between the UK Government and the Zimbabwean authorities might have the effect, on the one hand of creating refugees out of the very people sought to be removed and on the other, breach of their confidentiality.
There appears to be no hiding from the glaringly obvious: following on from a previous blog post, Is Mnangagwa’s New Government paving the way for UK mass removals of failed Zimbabwean Asylum Claimants ?, the Zimbabwean authorities have indeed now fully sold out on the many undocumented Zimbabweans living in the UK. I say sold out as the Zimbabwean government is apparently ready to welcome with open arms thousands of Zimbabweans who have accrued lengthy residence in the UK, yet offer them absolutely nothing of any enduring substance on return. One only has to look at the current country conditions as they relate to Zimbabwe. Return is to a place of desolation and despair for the majority of those being targeted for return.
Undocumented Zimbabwean nationals therefore now face forcible return to Zimbabwe – whether or not they have given their consent to the Emergency Travel Document(ETD) process. This much is evident from the new UK Country Returns Guide updated on 3 December 2018.
It is most strange that it should staunchly be maintained before the Court of Appeal that Home Office Presenting Officers are aware of country guidance caselaw, yet a supposedly sufficiently experienced Home office Presenting Officer voluntarily made a concession that was inconsistent with relevant country guidance caselaw with the result that, also placing reliance upon that concession, an Upper Tribunal Judge allowed an appellant’s appeal.
Even stranger still is that it subsequently emerged that neither the Presenting Officer nor those that represented the Appellant had referred to nor relied upon applicable country guidance ceselaw in the Upper Tribunal.
A new Home Office application process is now in operation, although confusingly and inexplicably, it currently also co-exists side by side with the “old” system that was in place prior to 2 November 2018.
Although confusion might initially arise in the next few weeks in relation to the operation of new process, it is very important that as the process gradually comes into flow, that applicants keep a close and continual eye on UKVI announcements and updates, introduction of relevant new or amended Home Office Policy guidance and most importantly, pay close attention to the contents of the very first page of published paper application forms and accompanying Guidance as regards the circumstances in which paper application forms can continue to be used in the interim.
The operation of the new process will inevitably affect the validity and acceptance of applications.
Part 2 of this post will set out the new Home Office application process and some commentary, whilst for now the Rules and updated Guidance are considered in conjunction of each other as set out below.