Don’t give up! Zimbabwean removal deferred within 48hours of instructions

 

Four detailed statements later, five sets of representations, numerous discussions with claimant’s wife, removal has now been referred without the need for any court proceedings.

Instructed late Saturday afternoon, 17 July 2021. By Monday, 2.45pm removal had been deferred for a claimant who has been here for 20years , with British children, appeal rights exhausted and subject to a deportation order.

Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. Research, research and even more research. Above all reflection and strategization.  And absolutely no sleep for 24hours.

I encourage claimants, legal representatives and campaigners not to give up!

 

 

Zimbabwean Embassy re-documentation interviews: How the practice has led to a grant of refugee status

Three weeks following written notification from the Home Office that leave as a refugee had been granted, a shiny new BRP card has just been received.

It has been a battle lasting two years, but finally the claimant has been recognised as a refugee, achieving vindication following their public outcry that the practice the Home Office had adopted, working together with Zimbabwe Embassy officials, exposed them to persecution on return to Zimbabwe.

Much has been said in the media since 2018 regarding the Home Office practice of permitting Zimbabwean Embassy officials access to undocumented Zimbabweans in the UK.  A few blog articles delve into the effects of this practice:

The Home Office’s general position in response to refugee sur place claims arising out of Zimbabwean Embassy re-documentation interviews

An undocumented Zimbabwean claimant may seek to put forward a fresh claim for asylum arguing that following Home Office action in facilitating a re-documentation interview with Embassy officials, the consequence is that:

  • he has been exposed to an increased/enhanced risk on return to Zimbabwe;
  • he will be identified as a person who has claimed asylum in the UK;
  • he will have an anti – regime stance imputed to him; and
  • he will be viewed as someone unable to demonstrate loyalty to the Zimbabwean regime.

The Home Office’s general responses to such claims includes the following:

  • Interviews to obtain the information required for Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) are a common practice of the Home Office.
  • The Home Office regularly arranges such events, both in person and over the telephone, in order to facilitate the removal of individuals, who have no leave to remain, from the United Kingdom to their home country.
  • ETD interviews are purely to establish nationality of a subject.  They are mandatory part of the returns process and conducted for a large majority of countries when seeking to return those with no legal right to remain in the UK
  • The ETD would be issued by the Zimbabwean authorities. It does not necessarily follow that there is a reasonable likelihood that the individual will be at risk on return.
  • No evidence has been provided to support the claim that the Home Office may have provided details of the claimant’s asylum claim to the Zimbabwean officials.
  • Upper Tribunal country guidance has found that an individual would not be at risk on return to Zimbabwe, as failed asylum seeker or as a returnee from the United Kingdom.

How to counter

Whatever else submissions were advanced by the recently recognised refugee, their fresh asylum claim arose directly out of being subjected to a mandatory re-documentation interview with Zimbabwean Embassy officials.

Such an interview was at the behest of the Home Office.

The Court of Appeal in MS (Zimbabwe) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWCA Civ 941 (22 June 2021), observed that the Upper Tribunal in that case was prepared to accept that Zimbabwe, ‘remains a society where brutality and human rights abuses continue to take place”.

That is the starting point when seeking to emphasise that subjecting potential returnees directly to agents of  such a brutal regime for prior “vetting” exposes them to risk on return.

What however must be addressed by the claimant’s statement, the written representations and supportive documentary evidence, is exactly how and why it is being said that particular claimant will be at risk on return following such an interview.

A Subject Access Request may need to be obtained. It is important to request a copy of the ETD application package that was given by the Home Office to the Zimbabwean Embassy official either in advance of the interview or on the day of the interview itself.

As matters progress, a relevant and appropriate country expert may(funding permitting) need to be instructed.

Are re-documentation interviews still being rolled out?

A relevant question currently might be whether Zimbabwe Embassy re-documentation interviews are still being rolled out by the Home Office.

In early May 2021, an undocumented Zimbabwean was provided a standard letter requiring that they provide information and documentary evidence to establish their nationality and identity to the Home Office at an appointment. The form of this letter is provided to persons of any nationality who no longer have pending representations or claims and are therefore liable to removal or deportation. Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this “first stage” of the re-documentation processes would have ordinarily been followed up by a further appointment to enable an interview with Embassy officials.

It currently seems since early 2020, following announcement of the first lockdown, that Embassy interviews with undocumented Zimbabweans have not been taking place. Indeed, generally across the country, some individuals of different nationals subject to reporting requirements have had these conditions temporarily suspended in light of the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the Country Returns Guidance: 2021 still indicates the following in relation to the ETD application process relating to Zimbabwean returnees:

“All ETD applications should be submitted to the Returns Logistics Team 1.

A mandatory face to face interview will then be arranged through RL Country Liaison and Documentation team 1. This will be through interview schemes at IRC’s, Reporting Centres and prisons. Interview outcomes will be notified via CID.
Only voluntary cases can be interviewed at the High Commission in London. In such cases the ETD application should be signed by the subject and submitted direct to the HC. RL team 1 will arrange an interview”.   

Mandatory face- to-face interviews therefore continue to be the practice to be followed to enable the issue of an ETD.

Following lifting of lockdown, undocumented returnees may find themselves face- to-face with a Zimbabwean Embassy official, subject to a mini interrogation and being prompted to speak a language other than English( i.e Shona or Ndebele).  It is important immediately thereafter for affected individuals to re-visit their case and circumstances so as to ascertain whether they are in a position to put forward a fresh claim for asylum.

 

Revocation of Refugee Status: Reliance on submitted country expert report not sufficient to depart from CM(Zimbabwe) says Court of Appeal

Is MS (Zimbabwe) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWCA Civ 941 (22 June 2021) entirely unwelcome “bad news” for Zimbabwean asylum claimants in the UK, or

  • does it merely maintain the status quo in refusing to depart from CM (EM country guidance: disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC)?
  • in refusing to depart from CM (EM country guidance: disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC), is the decision in MS(Zimbabwe) merely reflective of the particular evidence that was before the Upper Tribunal and Court of Appeal?
  • is there room for other categories of Zimbabwean claimants( i,e those not in MS’s position) to continue to seek protection in the UK, without being restricted to showing a “significant MDC profile”?

Background

MS arrived in the United Kingdom in 2004, when he was 14. He had indefinite leave to enter to join his mother. She had been recognised as a refugee after a successful appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse her claim for asylum. MS’s mother had been recognised as a refugee because of her actual or imputed political opinion as a supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change (‘the MDC’). When she applied for asylum, even low-level supporters of the MDC were at risk. MS’s refugee status was linked to his mother’s. MS’s father had stayed in Zimbabwe. He died in 2012. MS went back to Zimbabwe for the burial. MS also returned for about ten days in 2015, with his two sisters, to visit their father’s grave.

On 11 June 2012, MS was convicted, on his plea of guilty, of a count of robbery, for which he received a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment.

The Secretary of State decided to revoke his refugee status and to deport him to Zimbabwe. The First Tier Tribunal(FTT) allowed MS’s appeal from  the decision of the Secretary of State to revoke his refugee status and to deport him to Zimbabwe. However the Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal of the Secretary of State from the decision of the FTT, deciding that the Refugee Convention had ceased to apply to MS.

MS’s reliance on a country expert report

It was argued on MS’s behalf that the Upper Tribunal failed to give ‘proper consideration to crucial aspects of expert evidence’ about the risk faced by people who cannot show their loyalty to ZANU PF.

The appeal was noted by the Court of Appeal to raise a short point about the Upper Tribunal’s approach to the evidence in the Report.

The following arose in relation to the Report:

  • It was contended that the Upper Tribunal had failed, without explanation, to adopt the conclusions in paragraph G of the Report’s ‘Brief Summary of Findings, which stated:‘With due consideration to the profile of [MS], the evidence available to me, and my own in-country knowledge, it is my opinion that it is plausible that [MS] will be identified as a person of adverse interest to SSF and a person with an imputed political opinion. It is my opinion that those who are identified at the airport as being of sufficient interest to merit further interrogation are at real risk of harm. As a person who has benefitted from refugee status in the UK and is the son of a political refugee, it is plausible that [MS] is at risk of persecution by the CIO on his arrival at Harare International Airport, including arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment as a result of his imputed political opinion and his inability to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU PF’.
  • The purpose of the Report was to support MS’s claim that he had a fear of persecution on Convention grounds if he were deported to Zimbabwe.
  • It was noted that the Report had two premises: MS will have a political opinion imputed to him, and he will not be able to show that he is loyal to ZANU PF.
  • Those representing MS submitted on his behalf that a premise of the Report was that he had no personal political profile, but that it showed that the state now targets all those who are not supporters of ZANU PF.

Issues of concern noted by the Court of Appeal in relation to the Report

The Court of Appeal raised the following issues concerning the expert Report:

  • The first two sentences of paragraph 56 of the Report stated that the police were out ‘in full force’ in Bulawayo and Harare on 30 July 2020. They blocked streets and they did ‘random searches’ of commuters. The Court noted that those representing the Secretary of State pointed out that no context for this incident was provided and no checkable source.
  • Paragraph 57 of the Report stated that on 2 August 2020, an armed convoy of the police and the army drove through the Central Business District in Bulawayo, and prevented the people who lived there from buying food or using cash points. The source for this, referred to in a footnote, was ‘Telephone interviews 2 August 2020 with research respondents who are also residents of suburbs of Bulawayo’.
  • The source for the second part of paragraph 57 of the Report was a telephone interview with a ‘former Scottish police constable who was director of a charity in Zimbabwe’, on 17 October 2018. The person was not identified. The Court stated that source was relied on for this sweeping assertion: ‘The current country conditions in Zimbabwe leave human rights campaigners, government critics, political opposition, those suspected of being members of the political opposition, or those unable to demonstrate affiliation with ZANU PF, at higher risk of state violence including torture, rape and death than was the case in 2007/2008, or, indeed, since 1999’.
  • In paragraph M, the ‘Brief Summary’ asserted that ‘having to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU PF to obtain food aid is country wide and not restricted to rural communities.’ MS was said to be ‘at risk of serious harm and persecution if he is unable to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU PF in exchange for food aid. This is contrary to paragraph 29 of the Home Office Notice of Decision of 13 December 2013.’ The Court of Appeal noted that this sweeping assertion was based on one example: an incident which as described in the Report when, on 10 July 2019, a ZANU PF activist demanded, before giving food aid to villagers (in one particular village) that they showed that they were loyal to ZANU PF.  The Court also observed that it had not been able to find a relevant Home Office decision dated 13 December 2013 in the papers for MS’s case, which led the Court to wonder whether this paragraph had been copied from a report in a different case.
  • Paragraph 47 of the Report referred to an attack by security forces on an MDC MP in Bulawayo in August 2019. That attack was said to be ‘contrary to the claims of paragraph 30 of the Home Office Notice of Decision dated 13 Dec 2018, which states that “the country guidance caselaw demonstrates that even high-profile MDC members face no risk of persecution in Bulawayo. It is considered therefore that you could settle in Bulawayo and your claimed interaction with Mr Ncube six years ago would not place you at risk of persecution”‘. The Court of Appeal enquired of the Secretary of State whether there was any decision by the Secretary of State in MS’s case dated 13 December 2018, and whether MS had ever claimed to have had an interaction with Mr Ncube.  It was noted that the answer to both questions was ‘No’. Those representing the Secretary of State offered the explanation that this paragraph had been cut and pasted from a report in a different case.
  • Paragraph 74 of the Report cited two sources (the dates of which were not obvious in the footnotes) for a claim that:‘The CIO meet flights arriving in Harare when British Immigration officers’ [sic] or their representatives shand [sic] over failed asylum seekers to their Zimbabwean counterparts. Over the past 15 years there have been reports of failed asylum seekers being victimised, including being beaten upon their arrival at Harare Airport. It is my opinion that the country situation has not changed since the reports dating back to 2002 and the CIO have continued to detain asylum deportees at Harare Airport and interrogate them’.
  • The Court observed that the reasoning in paragraph 74 seemed to be the basis of the expert’s view, expressed in Report, that ‘the current country conditions indicate that it is plausible that on his return to Zimbabwe [MS] may be identified as a person with an imputed political opinion in line with that of his mother.’

Relevance of country guidance case of CM(Zimbabwe) and the Upper Tribunal’s response to the submission that it be departed from

The Court of Appeal noted that the Upper Tribunal took the decision in CM (EM country guidance: disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC) (‘CM‘) as its starting point.

In CM(Zimbabwe) the Upper Tribunal confirmed earlier country guidance that there had been ‘durable’ changes since the previous country guidance, RN (Returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2008] UKAIT 00083. The Upper Tribunal in MS ‘s appeal was noted to have cited the guidance in CM extensively.

The following was considered by the Court:

  • In sum, the Upper Tribunal decided in CM(Zimbabwe)that there was significantly less political violence than in 2008. The mere fact that a person was returning from the United Kingdom as a failed asylum seeker, would not, if he had no significant MDC profile, expose him to a risk of having to prove his loyalty to ZANU PF. It would be otherwise if a person with no connections with ZANU PF returned to a rural area (other than Matabeleland) after a long absence in the United Kingdom. The situation was not uniform in rural areas. A person returning to Matabeleland was, in general, unlikely to face difficulty even if he supported the MDC. A person returning to a low or medium density area in Harare was unlikely to face significant difficulties. If he returned to a high density area, in general, a person without ZANU PF connections would not face difficulties, such as a loyalty test, unless he had a significant MDC profile. A person returning to Bulawayo would face no difficulty, even if he had a significant MDC profile.
  • The Upper Tribunal in MS’s appeal described, by reference to paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Upper Tribunal’s Guidance Note 2011 No 2, the circumstances in which it could depart from country guidance.
  • The Upper Tribunal recorded MS’s submission that the background evidence and the expert Report were ‘very strong grounds supported by cogent evidence’ for departing from CM(Zimbabwe).
  • The Upper Tribunal in MS’s appeal accepted that the Expert had expertise in ‘Zimbabwean social and political matters’. The Upper Tribunal was noted to have given ‘due weight’ to her opinions. Her view was that the current situation was comparable to that considered in RN (Returnees). Those at risk were not simply those who are seen to support the MDC, but also those who cannot show positive support for ZANU PF, or alignment with the regime.
  • In considering MS’s appeal, the Upper Tribunal however rejected the claim that the current political climate was comparable with the situation [in RN (Returnees)], and that anyone who cannot demonstrate positive support for ZANU PF or alignment with the regime is at risk in Zimbabwe.
  • Although the Upper Tribunal accepted that there was evidence of a ‘spike in violence’ around the time of the 2018 elections, and of a crackdown on opposition leaders, there was, however, no evidence that the decline in violence reported in CM(Zimbabwe) had reversed in the previous six years. Spikes in violence at election times were nothing new in Zimbabwe, and did ‘not necessarily affect the overall downward trend’. They were not inconsistent with a finding of ‘significant and durable change in Zimbabwe’.
  • The Upper Tribunal described some of the submitted material and concluded that ‘The evidence is not necessarily indicative of ZANU PF politically motivated human rights violations against simple supporters of the opposition or MDC’.
  • The Upper Tribunal stated that 16 years after he had left Zimbabwe, no-one would have any particular memory of or interest in MS by reason of his relationship with his mother. He had returned to Zimbabwe in 2012, and he and his sisters, in 2015. There was no evidence that they had been targeted in any way because of an imputed political reason, or because of their relationship with their mother.

Court of Appeal’s reasoning and conclusions

In dismissing MS’s appeal, the Court of Appeal concluded that:

  • A Tribunal of fact is not bound to accept expert evidence if it disagrees with that evidence. That is so even if the expert witness is not cross-examined. The tribunal of fact is entitled, and obliged, to examine the analysis and reasoning in the expert’s report. It is obliged to reach its own conclusions on any questions of fact, or mixed questions of fact and law, which it must decide in order to determine a case. It may accept guidance from an expert on those questions, but is not obliged to accept it.
  • The Upper Tribunal was not obliged to accept the conclusions in paragraph G of the Brief Summary, just because they were the conclusions of an experienced expert. The Upper Tribunal was entitled, and obliged, to ask itself whether those conclusions were rational conclusions, and whether, and if so, to what extent, they were supported by the material cited in the Report. The more inscrutable an expert’s conclusion is, the less likely it is that a tribunal of fact will be obliged to accept it.
  • The Upper Tribunal was entitled to decide that old reports which pre-dated CM(Zimbabwe)did not amount to cogent evidence enabling it to depart from CM. The Upper Tribunal was plainly entitled to reject paragraph G, to the extent that it suggested that MS would be identified at Harare Airport as a person with an MDC profile.
  • The Upper Tribunal was entitled, and obliged, to ask itself what material in the Report supported a general proposition that a person generally who cannot show that he is loyal to ZANU PF, or a person who, in particular, needs food aid, and who cannot show that he is loyal to ZANU PF, is at risk of ill treatment in Zimbabwe. On analysis, paragraph 91 of the Report was the only material which supported that proposition. The Upper Tribunal was entitled to conclude that that material did not support the general proposition that a person who cannot show his loyalty to ZANU PF is at risk of ill treatment in Zimbabwe
  • There was no suggestion in the Report that MS would be entitled to the protection of the Convention if the only risk he would be exposed to in Zimbabwe would be a risk of random state violence which was not connected with, or caused by, his political profile (either, an MDC profile, or an inability to show, when required, his loyalty to ZANU PF). Ill treatment which is meted out randomly is not connected with, or caused by, a particular political profile, or by the absence of political profile. It is simply not related to the political profile of its victims in any way.
  • The Upper Tribunal recognised that there were examples of random attacks, and was entitled and right to say that a common thread to many of the incidents referred to by the expert is that the attacks were upon supporters of the political opposition, leaders, and those perceived as critics of the government.
  • Paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Report were the foundation for MS’s argument that the Upper Tribunal was obliged to depart from CM(Zimbabwe). This material did not meet the relevant test. It was not cogent, because it was wholly irrelevant to the question whether or not MS continued to need the protection of the Convention.

The Court of Appeal dismissed MS’s appeal.

Still seeking to argue a departure from CM(Zimbabwe)?

Where the decision in MS(Zimbabwe) is considered substantially reflective of the particular evidence that was before the Upper Tribunal and Court of Appeal, MS(Zimbabwe) does not signal the end of the argument that CM(Zimbabwe) should be departed from (and also that new country guidance caselaw should be promulgated).

What then should properly researched and sourced background evidence address?

Having regard to the Court of Appeal’s judgment in MS(Zimbabwe), the answer is clear with reference to the basis upon which the Upper Tribunal dismissed MS’s appeal and from the submissions put forward on behalf of the Secretary of State.

There is a need therefore:

  • to show evidence of attacks on people who are not just political activists, journalists, or active supporters of the opposition.
  • To show much much more than just two incidents (see paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Report above) on seeking to establish cogent evidence to justify a departure from the country guidance
  • in relation to evidencing random violence against civilians by the government, where possible by way of an expert report, to analyse trends in violence since CM(Zimbabwe). Show evidence (if possible) that violence has increased since CM(Zimbabwe) to the levels which existed in 2008. Show the incidents are supported by checkable sources.

What MS(Zimbabwe) leaves open to argue

Had MS been able to show a potential risk arising from the profile his mother had had, some 20 years previously and/or MS’s inability to show that he was loyal to ZANU PF, his protection claim might have had some chance of success.

The Court of Appeal observed that those representing MS accepted that there were three relevant groups of people at risk in Zimbabwe:

(a) those who had an MDC profile (a group which did not include MS),

(b) those who could be attacked randomly (and whose political profile was irrelevant) and

(c) those who could not show that they were loyal to ZANU PF (and there was only one example of ill treatment on that basis in MS’s appeal).

For those not in MS’s position and for example able to fall into categories (a) or (c) and with the Upper Tribunal in MS having accepted that Zimbabwe  “remains a society where brutality and human rights abuses continue to take place”, rather than seek to argue that levels of violence have increased since RN(Zimbabwe) was published in 2008 etc, an option argument might be, as per a recent successful claim, that following the publication of CM(Zimbabwe) itself:

  • the Secretary of State’s background evidence makes it clear that anti-regime activity continues to be met by human rights abuses and repression in Zimbabwe.
  • the background evidence (and the expert report where prepared) make it abundantly clear that a person with the claimant’s profile will be at real risk of ill-treatment from the authorities for his anti-regime activity. The option of internal relocation does not apply as the claimant will be at risk on arrival at the airport in Zimbabwe.

Lessons learned

In submissions, on behalf of the Secretary of State, it was stated in relation to the Report that, “overall, there was nothing in paragraphs 56 or 57 which showed that test for departing from CM was met. That material, far from satisfying the test, was ‘very thin indeed’”.

It is worth considering drawing MS(Zimbabwe) to the attention of any country expert instructed to address issues of risk on return related to Zimbabwean claimants.

Proof -reading and double-checking the contents of a prepared expert report before submission to the Tribunal is a must. It is not unusual to find one or two brief erroneous references in some expert reports which may be highly indicative of copying and pasting from elsewhere, however experts will quickly amend a report and remove inapplicable sentences or paragraphs where their attention is drawn to it.

It is important not to rely substantially or wholly upon the researched background evidence referred to within an expert report to support arguments on matters of risk on return related to persecution of opposition or suspected opposition supporters. In reference to a country such as Zimbabwe, there is a multitude of reliable background evidence that can be sourced online to support an asylum application or appeal. A mere two hours dedicated to research of relevant and reliable background evidence is not sufficient. Where a legal representative does not have regularly updated extracts of background evidence including sources links accrued over time, then, so as to “catch-up”, 4hours or more hours dedicated to delving  into research  on risk matters will be required.

 

Waves of repression: it’s time that the UK Government suspended enforced removals to Zimbabwe

 

Unthinkable that a country signed to the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights should have an existing policy of enforced returns to a country, where those in power, not only are intolerant of it’s citizens’ justified peaceful criticisms, but will main and kill to remain in power?

The UK Government does have such a policy. In fact, it has since 2018 been working hand in hand with the Zimbabwean government to re-document even those who have continued to express a fear of return to Zimbabwe. 

Return is to a country where the president has declared war on it’s citizens: “On August 4, President Emmerson Mnangagwa publicly denounced critics in a speech, describing them as “dark forces,” “a few rogue Zimbabweans,” and “terrorist opposition groupings.” He said: “Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and weaken our systems shall be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil.” He said nothing about the constitutional rights of Zimbabweans to peacefully protest or the government’s domestic and international human rights obligations”,- https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/06/zimbabwe-sadc-au-should-denounce-crackdown

It’s also difficult to ignore the defiant online protest movement that has been raging in Zimbabwe, reaching a crescendo in the last few days – “The Zimbabwe crackdown on activists has inspired an online campaign, with the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, which has resulted in more than 700,000 tweets in two days, but neither SADC nor the African Union has spoken out about the situation. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chairperson of the African Union, should press President Mnangagwa to end the wave of repression and promote respect for human rights”.- https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/06/zimbabwe-sadc-au-should-denounce-crackdown

What impact does all this have on undocumented Zimbabweans living in the UK?

Generally, forced removals from the UK in the last few months seem likely to have only been suspended due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, however very recent news reports indicate that the Home Office intend to resume removals- https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/home-office-asylum-seekers-deportation-coronavirus-a9657761.html

This general position will inevitably impact those targeted for removal to Zimbabwe- despite the risks to person and political instability in that country.

 

ENFORCED RETURNS TO ZIMBABWE STILL UK POLICY

There has been no UK Government policy for a decade against the forcible removal of undocumented Zimbabweans. What stopped mass removals from the UK  for a couple of years thereafter until 2018, was the persistent intrusion of an existing policy instituted by the Zimbabwean Government under former president Mugabe. This policy resulted in refusals by the Zimbabwean government in accepting non-consenting Zimbabwean returnees who were not willing to attend at the Zimbabwean Embassy in London and apply voluntarily for an emergency travel document. After president Mnangagwa seized power(November 2017), agreement was reached between the two governments in 2018, with the Zimbabwean government agreeing to issue  return travel documents to failed asylum seekers or the undocumented, with or without their consent-  so long as their identity  and nationality had been vetted in advance by way of interviews by Zimbabwe Embassy officials.

Asa result of this repatriation agreement between the two governments, from late 2018, travel documents have been issued by the Zimbabwean Embassy, however most have lain unused due to inability to remove returnees for one reason or the other.  Applications and fresh asylum claims have been submitted to the Home Office and in such circumstances, removals cannot take place until a determination of the claims by the UK Government or the courts.

 

PROLONGED VIOLENCE BY THE ZIMBABWEAN GOVERNMENT

The main reason why the UK Government for many years had in place a policy of non-forcible returns for  Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers, was due to the “turbulent political conditions” in that country- https://ukimmigrationjusticewatch.com/2016/12/13/valid-passport-with-the-home-office-zimbabweans-with-no-claims-still-very-much-removable-from-the-uk/

As above, that UK policy was lifted a decade ago.

The  other remaining layer of “protection” arising from the UK government problem of obtaining return travel documents from the Zimbabwean Embassy, fell away in 2018 in light of the repatriation agreement.

The problem in terms of protection and safety for those liable for removal to Zimbabwe stems from the current risk of ill- treatment, violence, or death they might face on return, having regard to current country conditions.

Events over the past two years indicate an entrenchment of political violence in Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa’s rule:

  • Following the July 2018 elections, but before the announcement of the results in August 2018, in response to protests in Zimbabwe, soldiers moved around beating up people  in their  homes. People were fired at and some killed despite not  having been involved in the protests nor being opposition members. Others  were  arrested, detained and ill-treated – https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/03/zimbabwe-least-6-dead-post-election-violence
  • In August 2019, the Zimbabwean government went as far as targeting  suspected  would – be protesters  and these perceived to be part of the opposition days before the intended demonstrations which were meant to start on 16 August 2019. Opposition supporters were targeted in advance and thereafter, some beaten and abducted. The demonstrations were banned at the last minute by the Zimbabwean authorities-  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/16/zimbabwe-riot-police-teargas-batons-clear-protesters
  • Zimbabwean opposition activists and a member of parliament described torture, humiliation and repeated sexual assaults after being abducted by suspected state security services. The three women, all leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change’s youth movement, were arrested at a roadblock guarded by police and soldiers on 13 May 2020 at a protest in Harare against the state’s failure to provide for the poor during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown. They then disappeared until they were found on a roadside on Friday morning 60 miles away from the capital by a local man, badly injured and traumatised- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/17/zimbabwean-mdc-activists-abducted-and-sexually-assaulted

Currently, as below, ongoing waves of violence against its citizens by the Zimbabwean government continue.

 

THOSE AT RISK

In addition to members or supporters of the MDC (which is led by Nelson Chamisa) and those perceived to be in opposition to the government, the following are persecuted in Zimbabwe:

 

Political and human rights activists, critics and protestors:

Zimbabwe: SADC,AU Should Denounce Crackdown, 6 August 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/06/zimbabwe-sadc-au-should-denounce-crackdown:

“SADC and the African Union should call out Zimbabwe’s government for its repression and rampant abuses throughout the country,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s important for these regional institutions to send strong signals to the Mnangagwa administration that flagrant violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties are unacceptable.

………………

The Zimbabwe authorities have increasingly arbitrarily arrested critics of the government, Human Rights Watch said”.

Amnesty International- Zimbabwe: Authorities thwart anti-corruption protests, launch a witch-hunt against activists, 31 July 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/zimbabwe-authorities-thwart-anti-corruption-protests-launch-a-witchhunt-against-activists/:

“Zimbabwean authorities have thwarted a peaceful anti-corruption protest which was planned for today and launched a witch-hunt against political and human rights activists suspected of being behind the planned demonstration, Amnesty International said today.

A number of activists have gone into hiding after police published a list of names of human rights defenders who are wanted for questioning in connection with the planned protests. A number of opposition leaders are also understood to be wanted by the police, while six others have already been arrested.

“The brutal assault on political activists and human rights defenders who have had the courage to call out alleged corruption and demand accountability from their government is intensifying. The persecution of these activists is a blatant abuse of the criminal justice system and mockery of justice,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

“This latest witch-hunt and repression of peaceful dissent is a continuation of what we have seen in the country in recent years, including the abductions and arbitrary arrests of those who are critical of the government, in an attempt to muzzle differing views. The thwarting of the protest illustrates the Zimbabwean authorities’ total intolerance of criticism.”

………

“Zimbabweans must be allowed to freely exercise their human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The authorities must stop harassing, intimidating and arresting people who have done nothing more than peacefully express their opinions.”

 

Silencing of certain professions – journalists, doctors, nurses, comedians:

Amnesty International- Zimbabwe: Authorities continue their crackdown on dissent with arrest of investigative journalist and activist, 20 July 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/zimbabwe-authorities-continue-their-crackdown-on-dissent-with-arrest-of-investigative-journalist-and-activist/:

“Authorities in Zimbabwe are continuing their crackdown on dissent with the arrest of a prominent journalist, who exposed a multimillion-dollar scandal involving government officials, and a political activist, who called for a nationwide protest against corruption on 31 July, Amnesty International said today.

Hopewell Chin’ono, an investigative journalist, and Jacob Ngarivhume, an activist who called for the 31 July demonstrations, were arrested earlier today in Harare. Chin’ono has been exposing alleged corruption, including in the procurement of COVID-19 medical supplies.

“The arrests of Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume are designed to intimidate and send sending a chilling message to journalists, whistleblowers and activists who draw attention to matters of public interest in Zimbabwe,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Zimbabwean authorities must stop misusing the criminal justice system to persecute journalists and activists who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The authorities must stop using the police and courts to silence dissent”.

Amnesty International- Zimbabwe: Authorities must drop charges against healthcare workers for demanding better wages, 7 July 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/zimbabwe-authorities-must-drop-charges-against-health-care-workers-for-demanding-better-wages/:

“In response to charges levelled against 13 nurses who are accused of contravening lockdown regulations, introduced as a way to address COVID-19, by protesting to demand better wages and working conditions, Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa, said:

“The charges levelled against these nurses, to enforce COVID-19 lockdown regulations, are clearly aimed at preventing them from organizing and speaking out against low wages and terrible working conditions.

“Zimbabwean authorities are arbitrarily using lockdown regulations to silence medical professionals and activists. The nurses were simply expressing their frustrations with their employer over the failure to address low salaries and longstanding poor working conditions. This, like other labour disputes currently unfolding in Zimbabwe, is a result of the neglect of health care services and the failure by the government to provide adequate remuneration. 

“Zimbabwean authorities must stop intimidating, harassing and suppressing dissent and instead start listening to the genuine concerns of healthcare workers. This is essential to effectively contain the spread of the virus.”

Outspoken Zimbabwe Doctor abducted, 18 September 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/09/18/outspoken-zimbabwe-doctor-abducted:

“It’s been four days since the leader of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Dr. Peter Magombeyi, went missing. According to a WhatsApp message he managed to send, three unidentified men abducted him from his home in the Budiriro neighborhood of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Since then, no one has heard from him.

Magombeyi, a government employee, had organized a series of protests to demand better salaries for government doctors, ZDHA said. Prior to his abduction, he had received a text message from a local mobile number threating him with disappearance.

……….

Magombeyi’s abduction is not an isolated case. Recent months have seen an alarming spike in abductions and tortureof critics of the government and the political opposition. Since the beginning of the year, the authorities have arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted several peaceful activists on baseless charges. 

Four weeks ago, six masked gunmen abducted and beat Zimbabwean comedian and government critic Samantha Kureya(known as “Gonyeti”). Kureya was forced to drink raw sewage before she was released. Another activist, Tatenda Mombeyara, was abductedby eight masked gunmen wielding AK-47 assault rifles. The abductors accused him of organizing anti-government protests and beat him badly, breaking his left leg and a finger, before abandoning him

Human Rights Watch has been able to confirm more than 50 cases of abductions of activists and other critics of the government this year. So far, none of the perpetrators have been arrested”.

 

Sexual violence against women as a political weapon:

Amnesty International- Zimbabwe: Drop bogus charges against opposition leaders who suffered sexual violence,27 May 2020,  https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/05/zimbabwe-drop-bogus-charges-against-opposition-leaders-who-suffered-sexual-assault/:

“In response to the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s decision to charge three female opposition MDC-Alliance party youth leaders for participating in peaceful protests against hunger during the lockdown period last month, Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa said:

“Joana Mamombe, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova are victims of police brutality, sexual assault and enforced disappearance. Before charging them for allegedly breaking the lockdown rules, authorities must investigate the crimes against them.

“The charges against these three women are a travesty and ploy to intimidate the opposition and send a chilling message that anyone who challenges the government is putting themselves at risk.

…………..

The three leaders from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance (MDC-Alliance) were disappeared after they were arrested at a roadblock in Warren Park guarded by police and soldiers on 13 May.

They were part of a demonstration organized against the authorities’ failure to provide social protection for the poor during the COVID-19 lockdown. They were later dropped in Bindura after they were subjected to sexual assault violence used as a method of torture and other human rights violations.

They were charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence and breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act among others”.

 

Persecution of relatives of political activists or critics of the Zimbabwean government:

WATCH: Niece To Political Activist Abducted, Later Dumped After Being Tortured And Sexually Assaulted, 7 August 2020, https://news.pindula.co.zw/2020/08/07/watch-niece-to-political-activist-abducted-later-dumped-after-being-tortured-and-sexually-assaulted/:

“Noxolo Maphosa, niece to Josphat Mzaca Ngulube, a former director in the ministry of sports and recreation for Bulawayo province and Political activist who has been missing since morning has been found.

Reports suggest that she had been abducted by suspected state security agents only to be dumped later in the day outside her home after she was tortured and sexually assaulted in Bulawayo.

Maphosa’s family reported in the morning that she made a distress call saying she was being followed at 1007hrs and her phone has been off since”.

Zimbabwe: SADC,AU Should Denounce Crackdown, 6 August 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/06/zimbabwe-sadc-au-should-denounce-crackdown:

“On the eve of the anti-corruption protests on July 30, security forces raided the house of Mduduzi Mathuthu, a prominent journalist and editor of the online newspaper Zimlive, in Bulawayo. Failing to find him, they arrested his three nephews, Tawanda Muchehiwa, 22, Advent Mathuthu, 25, and Amandlenkosi Mathuthu, 19. The security agents also detained Mathuthu’s sister, Nomagugu Mathuthu, to compel him to turn himself in, but released her hours later. Advent Mathuthu was charged with incitement of public violence after allegedly being found with flyers saying “Mnangagwa & His Cabinet Must Resign,” but was freed by a court

The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) issued a statement, emailed to Human Rights Watch, that security agents “dropped off” Mathuthu’s nephew Muchehiwa at his home on August 1 at about 10 p.m. The group said that he had been tortured by alleged security agents, resulting in serious injuries. According to medical documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch, Muchehiwa was assaulted with a wooden log and sprayed with an unknown substance all over his body. He suffered extensive bruises, an acute kidney injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder”.

 

THE PROBLEM OF OUT- DATED HOME OFFICE INFORMATION NOTES AND UPPER TRIBUNAL CASELAW

The relevant Home Office Country information Note, “Country and information note: opposition to the government, Zimbabwe, February 2019”, is one and half years out of date, only taking into account events running up to 1 February 2019.

The applicable country guidance caselaw, CM (EM country guidance; disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC) from the Upper Tribunal, published more than 7years ago, is limited to an account on Zimbabwe as at October 2012.

The anxious scrutiny that should be present is questionable when the Home Office and Tribunal apply outdated Notes and country guidance caselaw to determine asylum claims.

It is important to appreciate the context in which CM( Zimbabwe) was considered,7years ago by the Upper Tribunal:

“84. What was exceptional about the election violence in June 2008 is well described at [212] to [220] of RN. Instead of merely targeting MDC activists, members and supporters, ZANU-PF, through its use of militias deployed in urban areas, and militias, road blocks and no-go areas in certain rural provinces, unleashed a wave of persecution that brought a real risk of serious harm to those who could not demonstrate loyalty to the regime.

85. It is in this important context that the views expressed in the new material regarding the likelihood of violence at further elections needs to be viewed. With one possible exception, there is no indication that the comments in the new material, regarding election violence, ought to be read as considered assessments that any future elections would, in substance, lead to a repetition of what was seen in 2008. This went beyond anything seen before and drew the finding in RN, regarding risk on return, not just to those with a MDC profile, but to anyone who could not demonstrate loyalty to the regime.

130. As can be seen, one of the factors underpinning the Country Guidance in RN was the perception that, in late 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the power-sharing agreement, Mugabe and ZANUPF were intent on using the oppressive agents brought to bear during the election campaign, in order to eradicate the power of the MDC. By early 2011, by contrast, it was manifest that any such aim had long since failed: see [149] of EM. There was also highly compelling evidence, including from the appellants, that roadblocks were no longer a real risk: [152] and [153]. So far as Harare was concerned, the Tribunal in EM likewise had cogent evidence before it to indicate that, even during problematic periods such as the COPAC (Constitution Parliamentary Committee) campaign and the unrest in early 2011, the position in high density areas remained materially different from the period under consideration in RN. This can be seen by reading [159] to [173], [176], [201] to [205] and [243] of the EM determination (set out, for ease of reference, in Part 2 of Appendix A to this determination). So far as the unrest in early 2011 is concerned, see also paragraphs 102 to 106 above.

136. By contrast, the Tribunal in EM was assessing the position over two years after the end of the period considered in RN. The position on the ground in Zimbabwe had, for some significant time, been different. The powers haring agreement had given rise to the transitional government, with several ministries being occupied by MDC members. The feared eradication of the MDC as a political force had not happened. International (especially regional) pressure was being brought to bear on Mugabe and Zanu-PF. As [157] of EM noted, the British Ambassador could say in September 2010: “Had we in the chaos and violence of 2008 been offered a glimpse of the Zimbabwe of today, there is little doubt we would have seized it. Tsvangirai, harshly criticised for going into the coalition, has been proved right.”

These considerations, amongst others, led the Upper Tribunal in CM(Zimbabwe) to conclude in its Headnote:

“As a general matter, there is significantly less politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe, compared with the situation considered by the AIT in RN.  In particular, the evidence does not show that, as a general matter, the return of a failed asylum seeker from the United Kingdom, having no significant MDC profile, would result in that person facing a real risk of having to demonstrate loyalty to the ZANU-PF”.

The current evidence, which can be obtained from different sources, however shows politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe is on the increase and is significant. There are varied categories of persons who are at risk in Zimbabwe. The online protests movement has evolved and the regime has reacted viciously and brutally to this.  In such circumstances, a continued reference and focus in practice by the Home Office and Tribunal in seeking to look for a  “significant MDC profile” when determining claims from Zimbabwean asylum seekers, seems a wrong approach.

Regardless of whether or not a person has a profile, the position for consideration, resurrecting the principles arising from the previous case of RN(Returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2008] UKAIT 00083 , should be,  “Those at risk on return to Zimbabwe on account of imputed political opinion are no longer restricted to those who are perceived to be members or supporters of the MDC but include anyone who is unable to demonstrate support for or loyalty to the regime or Zanu-PF”. 

Unlike the position when CM(Zimbabwe) was decided, the current evidence shows political violence and repression in Zimbabwe has a wider ambit and is not sparse.

Contrary to circumstances when CM(Zimbabwe) was heard, the power sharing agreement with the MDC came to an end following general elections in July 2013, 6 months after CM was published. No ministries in government are occupied by the MDC.  As was the position when the case of RN(Zimbabwe) governed, the background evidence shows an intention by ZANU(PF) to silence or eradicate the power of the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa or those others in opposition to ZANU(PF).  Unlike the violence in late January/February 2011 as referred to above in CM, the  current background evidence indicates that 2019 and 2020 was punctuated by violence,  with the general population subjected to serious ill-treatment, not just those with a MDC profile, but  anyone unable to  demonstrate loyalty to the regime.

Unlike the violence of 2011, which was considered to have been orchestrated by a small clique of hardliners in a factionalised ZANU(PF), the violence, in particular from August 2018 was orchestrated both by the police and military, a military that ushered in president Mnangagwa through a coup following the forced resignation of Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe in 2017.

The increase in political violence or rather a change in the political situation in Zimbabwe as concerns the persecutory actions and methods of the regime is such that, for returnees, the majority who do not support ZANU(PF), there is a risk of ill-treatment on return to Zimbabwe for failure to demonstrate loyalty to the regime.

 

CONCLUSION

It is undeniable that Mnangagwa’s regime has unleashed a wave of persecution that brings about a real risk of serious harm to those who cannot demonstrate loyalty to the regime.

In the face of this, the current position  of the UK Government  in upholding  a position  of enforcing removals, can only be maintained on the basis that it is expected that such returnees,  must, in order to avoid ill-treatment, allow themselves to be cowered by  a brutal government,  be non- critical,  endure severe life destroying  economic hardship,  tolerate intimidation and violence from their own government.

Where that cannot logically be the expectation, a policy of suspension of forced removals to Zimbabwe should be published by the UK Government.

Zimbabwean Returnees: What you need to know about the current Emergency Travel Document application process

The Country Returns Guide contains Home Office guidance on the documents required and processes for returning those subject to removal to their country of origin.

Country returns guide: February 2020, currently provides as follows in relation to the ETD application process for Zimbabwean returnees:

“All ETD applications should be submitted to the Returns Logistics Team 1.

A mandatory face to face interview will then be arranged through RL Country Liaison and Documentation team 1. This will be through interview schemes at IRC’s, Reporting Centres and prisons. Interview outcomes will be notified via CID.   

Only voluntary cases can be interviewed at the High Commission in London. In such cases the ETD application should be signed by the subject and submitted direct to the HC. RL team 1 will arrange an interview”.

In relation to intended returnees who will be made to face Zimbabwean Embassy officials, where an expired Zimbabwean passport already lies on the Home Office file, ETD’s are likely to be issued fairly quickly.  This much is evident from the outcome of disclosed Home Office Minutes/Case Notes following  Subject Access Requests.

In one instance, a subject attended at Becket House for a nationality interview on 11 December 2019, was met by an Embassy Official and by 17 December 2019, an ETD Agreement had been received from Zimbabwe House.

Returnees have had the following recorded on their Home office files on receipt of  an agreement to issue a travel document:

“ETD Agreement received 17/12/2019.

Confirmed Name:

Confirmed DOB:       

PLEASE NOTE: Returns Logistics Team 1 will send out communications to the business once Removal Directions can be set. PPT quality  photos required. 

When  Removal Directions can be set, please inform Returns Logistics team 9 giving 10 clear working day notice.

Regional spreadsheet updated & will be disseminated tomorrow”.                                                                                                                                                                   

Invitation letter to Nationality Interview

Invitation letters from the Home Office in relation to nationality interviews, will run along the following lines:

You are requested to attend and interview at Becket House Reporting Centre, 1st Floor, St Thomas Street, London, PE6 0E2, on 15 March 2020 at 3.00pm.

You must attend with any dependants such as your husband/wife, dependant children or dependant adults. You should contact  the headmaster/mistress of your children’s school to notify them of the children’s requirement to attend this interview; this should enable the absence  to be recorded  as an authorised period of absence.

The interview is required to collate and verify  personal data about you and your family. You are required to bring with you any documents which can confirm yours and your family’s nationality such as:

  • National Passports(old/expired ones or new ones)
  • Birth Certificate ( UK ones for UK born children/spouse and any from your country of origin)
  • National Identity Cards
  • Military Service Cards
  • Military Service Cards/completion Certificates( from your country of origin)
  • Driving licenses ( from your country of origin ( expired or current)
  • Educational certificates, and
  • Letters from family in your home country

If you are unable to attend the appointment for any reason such as sickness, you should contact this office immediately, as failure to do so my affect any outstanding claim you may have with the Home Office.

Please bring this letter with you together with the documents detailed above and any other documentation you have received from the Home Office”.

As is known, mandatory face to face interviews are being carried out, without any prior notice given that Zimbabwean Embassy officials will be present.

Prior to the nationality interview taking place, Home Office Minutes/Case Notes will usually have recorded as follows:

“Criminal Casework Review

ETD IS THE CURRENT BARRIER TO REMOVAL

Returns to Zimbabwe are starting to resume. Foreign National Offender to be considered for future interview scheme.

Currently appeal rights exhausted, holds original expired passport.

Compliant with reporting

Zimbabwe ETD Interview Scheme

This case has been included on the Interview Scheme taking place at Becket House on 11/12/2019”

Following the nationality interview, all that the  Home Office Minute/Case Notes will record is the following:

“ZWE ETD Interview Scheme

Subject was interviewed by ZWE official at Beckett House RC on 11/12/2019.

CID will be updated when an outcome is received”.

No written record of that interview, or what was asked by the Embassy official and the returnee’s responses will be volunteered by the Home Office within the disclosed Subject Access Request outcome.

ETD Application Checklist

The Home Office appear to have an ETD document Checklists and that from Criminal Casework  Leeds is to the following effect:

  • Detention status? Released- – Subject reports every month on the 20th  at Becket House.
  • Current case status? Subject has been issued with a notice of Deportation order, and  his appeal was refused in 2017.
  • Have you checked to see if there are any outstanding applications/barriers to removal?
  • New photographs included and uploaded to CID? If not taken within last 6/12months  please
  • Has CID been checked to confirm whether a travel document is held or has previously been requested?
  • Has CID been checked for landing card  details?
  • Have all files been checked for Foreign National Offender’s original/copy of passport or evidence of identity or nationality?
  • Have CRS checks been done & included  where relevant?
  • Have the Foreign National’s fingerprints been taken?
  • If applicable, have the pre-verification checks been carried out through the RLO & are the results attached?
  • Has a negative immigration decision been served?
  • Have you confirmed that there is no evidence on file to indicate the Foreign National Offender has a fear of return to their own country, which has not been considered?
  • Have you confirmed  there is no ( implied) mention of asylum in ETD application?***
  • Have the correct travel document forms been completed?
  • Do the biodata  & other relevant forms state the correct Home Office reference, name, nationality, aliases, place and date of birth, last address in the country of origin, passport details?
  • Have all details been checked & verified  on internet, ie schools, hospitals etc?
  • Have you provided any other country specific nationality forms?
  • Do we have supporting evidence of identity/ nationality for the Foreign National Offender, ie passport, birth certificate, ID card?
  • Have files of family members been obtained and checked?
  • Do we have any supporting evidence for family of identity/nationality passport, birth certificate, ID card?
  • Has any supporting evidence been translated?
  • Have the minimum requirements for travel document as per nationality been completed?
  • Submission letter completed  correctly?
  • Country Guidance printed and attached to checklist?
  • Does the application need sending to Returns Logistics or mission?
  • Does the Foreign National Offender need an interview?

Note, the question: Have you confirmed there is no ( implied) mention of asylum in ETD application?

The Home Office will of course  indicate in the Checklist that there is no such mention however the underlying issue, self-evidently, even in the absence of documentation or information within the disclosed file, will be whether it is possible  to mount a fresh claim for asylum  on the basis that by her own actions, the Secretary of  State, in inviting  an official from the Zimbabwean Embassy to an interview  at the Home Office, might have brought an applicant to the direct adverse  attention  of the Zimbabwean authorities.

Submission letter to the Zimbabwean Embassy

The Home Office will need to send the submission letter to the Embassy with the ETD application and such letters are written as below:

Returns Logistics ( RL)

Immigration Enforcement

15th Floor, Lunar House

40 Wellesley Road

Croydon

CR9 2BY

Tel: +44(0) 208 196 0151

Zimbabwe House

429 Strand

London

WC2R 0JR

Application for a travel document- Non detained

Applicant’s Name: Ms Salllle Alllle

Date of Birth:00/00/1900

Our Reference: A0000000

The above named does not have/qualify for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, does not hold a valid travel document and authority to remove them from the United Kingdom has been granted.

 Please find enclosed a travel document application. I would be grateful if you would issue a travel document as soon as possible so that the Home Office can arrange removal.

Should you require any further information, the contact details and telephone number for the Returns Logistics unit are at the top of this letter. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours Faithfully,

Country Manager

Country Returns, Operations and Strategy

Bio Data Information

The Bio Data Information contains responses to the following questions:

  • Home Office reference number
  • Port Reference Number
  • Family name
  • Nationality
  • Other names
  • Male or Female
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Nationality
  • Last known address in country of origin: Telephone number
  • Passport number
  • Issuing Government or Authority
  • Place of Issue
  • Date of Issue
  • Valid until
  • Mother’s name
  • Place of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Nationality
  • Address
  • Father’s name
  • Place of birth
  • Date of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Nationality
  • Address
  • Last employer in country  of origin
  • Address
  • Date of employment
  • Schools attended in country of origin
  • Name and address of family doctor
  • Name and address of place of worship
  • Name and address of local police stations
  • Name and address of local hospitals

Documents Submitted to Zimbabwe House

As per  the Country returns guide: February 2020,  the following minimum requirements in relation to an application for an ETD are:

  • 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 supporting evidence accompanying an travel document must be translated into English
  • Fee £80. To be submitted to RL team 1, 15th Floor Lunar House

The Home Office will submit the ETD application to the Zimbabwean Embassy with the above mentioned submission letter.

Home Office Minutes/Case Notes will usually record as follows in this regards:

“ETD pack checked contains submission letter, interview letter, photos, bio data, copy of passport”.

Subject Access Request: absence of relevant disclosure

The online subject access request form requires clarification of the purpose for which  disclosure is required.  

A suggested format to be improved upon, may state the purpose as below:

“To ascertain whether Home Office actions  have placed the Applicant at risk and/or breached his confidentiality. All communication to and from the Home Office and the Zimbabwean Embassy authorities in relation to this Applicant. All interview records and Minutes/Case Notes as regards the meeting of 11 December 2019 between the Applicant and Zimbabwean Embassy Officials. Minutes/Notes/communication between the Embassy and Home Office & between Home Office staff  after 11 December 2019 are also required”.

As above, the Home Office will likely not volunteer disclosure of an interview record or Minute/Case Notes in relation to the face to face interview with the Embassy official. Apart from the submission letter to the Embassy, neither will they likely offer any other documentary communication  that may exist between the Home Office and  the Zimbabwean Embassy before or after the nationality  interview. The ETD Agreement received will also likely not be disclosed.

Instead the Home Office may respond as follows:

 “Unfortunately, there were no records of the minutes of and after the meeting of 11 December 2019 with the Zimbabwean Embassy on our file”.

In  the absence of the requested documentation and information, it is not apparent how such a  response can be  relied upon to sustain a position that  there has been no mention(implied) to the Zimbabwean Embassy of an asylum or other breach during the travel document application process.

If not satisfied with the response to the Subject Access Request, consider writing to the following address within 3months, expressing dissatisfaction with the response:

Customer Service Team

Subject Access Request Unit

UKVI, 11th Floor

Lunar House

40 Wellesley Road

Croydon, CR9 2BY                                                            

Additionally, consider sending a complaint to the Home Office Complaints Unit.

Where relevant disclosure is still not forthcoming, send a letter before claim setting out reasons why judicial review action is appropriate in the circumstances.

Re-documentation Interviews: UK Government enabling access to failed asylum seekers by Zimbabwean Embassy officials arguably gives rise to a fresh asylum claim says Upper Tribunal

It’s been two years following Mnangagwa and his government coming to power, yet there are still no signs in sight of the legacy of violence left behind by Mugabe waning.  The  main opposition party, the MDC,  is operating more or less as a banned political party.  Violence punctuates Mnangagwa’s  rule, periodically  giving the world free access to public displays of unfettered  power, with bullets, baton sticks, abductions and tear gas as part of the weaponry targeted against those believed to be aligned with the opposition.

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