Fertile grounds for an asylum claim: demonstrating Zimbabweans in the UK have the Zim Government breathing fire

Thought all the hullabaloo over the “ incident” of 12 July 2019 had died down and we could all move on to the next internet drama, for drama it is that usually keeps the long suffering in the impoverished nation that is Zimbabwe entertained amid the never- ending social, economic and political woes plaguing that country.

Not content in retreating and allowing the respective ministers to lick their “ emotional wounds” with some measure of dignity behind closed doors, the Zimbabwean government has come out snarling, claiming not only that one of their own was “ assaulted” by demonstrating Zimbabweans in London on 12 July 2019, but also calling for the UK Government to take action against the demonstrators. On 16 July 2019, the Zimbabwean, Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting published the following on Twitter @InfoMinZW:

 Govt respects the right of its citizens to demonstrate peacefully but strongly objects to the use of violence. Govt of Zimbabwe calls on the Government of the United Kingdom to take all necessary measures to bring the perpetrators of the assault of the 12th of July 2019 to book

The statement is backed by over a minute long video basically reiterating the Government’s position and objections.

The stark reality therefore is that we have an incensed “ propaganda ministry” all the way over there in Zimbabwe calling for the “punishment” of demonstrating Zimbabwean citizens all the way over here in the UK. Whether or not the relevant UK authorities will be nudged into taking any action as a result is for present purposes neither here nor there.

In light of the  recent statements made by the Zimbabwean government, the issue is really no longer confined to just those particular demonstrators who were present on 12 July 2019, involved in conveying their greetings to Minister SB. Moyo. It is about how the Zimbabwean government has now targeted a particular class of Zimbabweans based in the UK, ie creating an obvious risk category in relation to those involved in political protests against it. The incident took place on 12 July 2019. The Zimbabwean government mulled over it over several days and not finding any “closure”, presumably as a collective, decided to issue its statement. If they had never been so, it is now without doubt that protesting Zimbabweans in the UK have become a particular focus of adverse attention of the ZANU(PF) government.

“All necessary measures” include  the taking of several actions on the part of the UK authorities. The Zimbabwean government is surely not also blatantly calling for the deportation of those involved in the “ meet and greet” of 12th July 2019 that may potentially be “removable”? It is in the public domain that the Zimbabwean government has an agreement with the UK government to “ repatriate ” those considered to be failed asylum seekers or without a basis of stay in the UK.

Where removable, the Zimbabwean government will not welcome such returnees with open arms.

We all know what happens when demonstrators and protesters exercise their rights in Zimbabwe. The events of 1 August 2019 and January 2019 speak for themselves: killing of innocent citizens; abductions; arbitrary detentions; brutality against dissenters; rapes and a hail of bullets.

Country policy and information note: opposition to the government, Zimbabwe, February 2019, relevantly states:

Demonstrations against the government

2.4.22 Demonstrations about the government’s management of the economy are seen by the authorities as politically-motivated, even though people without strong political views have taken part. During the January 2019 demonstrations, there have been reports that security services used excessive force on protesters and those in the vicinity. Those perceived to have been in opposition to the government at this time have faced harassment, arrest and ill-treatment including assaults, gun-shot related injuries and at least 8 deaths. Further direct targeting of the opposition (and perceived opposition) including NGOs continued after the initial violence, through house raids, arrests and detentions

2.4.24 It is unlikely that a person will be at risk on return purely for having taken part in demonstrations. However, those organising a demonstration may be at risk if the government perceives them to be political agitators. This will depend on their profile, activities and past experiences with the authorities, with each case needing to be considered on its own facts”.

Protesters in the UK are attending demonstrations, not merely present but active in several respects, singing and verbally denouncing the ZANU(PF) government as they protest. On 12 July 2019 , several media reports were awash with news that a senior Zimbabwe government minister had been humiliated in the UK. He was called a thief for all to hear. The video evidence is not going away any time soon. The Zimbabwean government will not easily forget nor forgive.

The Home Office have on occasions refused asylum claims of genuine UK based Zimbabwean protestors on the basis that they have provided no evidence that the authorities of their country are aware of their activities in the UK nor that they could be identified, even if accepted that they have been politically active in the UK. The conclusion being that such claimants would not be at risk on return.

The case of YB (Eritrea) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] EWCA Civ 360 states:

“18.As has been seen (§7 above), the tribunal, while accepting that the appellant’s political activity in this country was genuine, were not prepared to accept in the absence of positive evidence that the Eritrean authorities had “the means and the inclination” to monitor such activities as a demonstration outside their embassy, or that they would be able to identify the appellant from photographs of the demonstration. In my judgment, and without disrespect to what is a specialist tribunal, this is a finding which risks losing contact with reality. Where, as here, the tribunal has objective evidence which “paints a bleak picture of the suppression of political opponents” by a named government, it requires little or no evidence or speculation to arrive at a strong possibility – and perhaps more – that its foreign legations not only film or photograph their nationals who demonstrate in public against the regime but have informers among expatriate oppositionist organisations who can name the people who are filmed or photographed. Similarly it does not require affirmative evidence to establish a probability that the intelligence services of such states monitor the internet for information about oppositionist groups. The real question in most cases will be what follows for the individual claimant. If, for example, any information reaching the embassy is likely to be that the claimant identified in a photograph is a hanger-on with no real commitment to the oppositionist cause, that will go directly to the issue flagged up by art 4(3)(d) of the Directive”.

It should now no longer be a struggle to show that UK based Zimbabwean protesters are known to be robustly active and anti ZANU(PF). A politically active asylum claimant need only point to the video evidence of 12 July, resultant media reports and now thanks to the Zimbabwean government, their recently published statement.

Leave a Reply