Friday 27 February 2009
AFTER THE RN RULING: WHAT NEXT FOR ZIMBABWEAN ASYLUM SEEKERS?
Many Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK are in a state of confusion. When the UKBA decided in December not to appeal against the RN ruling (November 2008) people were hopeful that their asylum cases might be settled at last.
The setting up of the government of national unity in Zimbabwe earlier this month has left people fearful and uncertain.
Zimbabwean asylum seekers should note the following:
1. The situation in Zimbabwe will not stabilise immediately.Activists are still detained, peaceful protestors are still being beaten, and the rule of law does not seem to be functioning. There are disputes and disagreements regarding control of the Reserve Bank and there is a humanitarian disaster unfolding with cholera and hunger spreading throughout the land.
2. There has been no change in the British government’s policy regarding returning asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. In other words, they are NOT forcibly removing Zimbabwean asylum seekers to Zimbabwe at this time.
3. ‘Failed asylum seekers’ must pursue their cases. They should seek legal advice; it may be possible for them to put in fresh claims under the RN ruling; if they have a fresh claim lodged they may be able to seek Section 4 support.
4. People putting in fresh claims may be able to apply for accommodation under NASS.
5. Zimbabweans should make contact with their MPs, Human rights groups, and community organisations to update them about the ongoing problems in Zimbabwe.
6. People should continue with their activities in the UK; if they have been going to meetings, demonstrations, vigils and other events to spread awareness about the situation in Zimbabwe they should carry on
7. People can access vocational training courses by going to local voluntary offices and asking about such courses
WHAT is UKBA doing about ZIMBABWEAN ASYLUM SEEKERS?
Following the RN ruling, the UK Border Agency has started a review of all outstanding Zimbabwean asylum cases which have not yet been concluded.
The review process will:
* consider the decisions made on cases in the past taking into account the new findings in RN
* the review will be done by case-owners and Home Office presenting officers
* they will use as guidance their most recent Operational Guidance Note on Zimbabwe which is available on the Home Office website (Please look for more information on the recent Zimbabwe judgment on ILPA website, www.ilpa.org.ukunder the heading Infoservice which also gives a direct link to the Operational Guidance Note)
* there are over 10,000 backlogged Zimbabwean cases to consider
At the time UKBA changed their policy following RN, many cases were in the appeals system and at the higher courts.
* Appeals at the Tribunal will be allowed to continue
* Decisions made prior to RN will be reviewed and leave will be granted where appropriate
* Cases at the Higher Courts will be treated differently – people will be asked to sign consent orders allowing the cases to be withdrawn from the Higher Courts so that a new decision can be made
WHAT is ZA hearing from asylum seekers in the UK?
* Many people are letting us know that they have been granted 5 years leave to remain
* Large numbers of people have been asked to send in their passport photos – in the past, this has been a good sign
* Others are being interviewed by accommodation providers round the UK
* Disputed nationals are still liable to be detained
Tuesday 18 November 2008
IAS Case Update
IAS wins test case – 17 Nov 2008
‘Victory at last for Zimbabwean asylum seekers’
In a decision long awaited by approximately 7,500 ‘failed’ Zimbabwean
asylum seekers in the U.K, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has
decided in a test-case that all those unable to demonstrate loyalty
to Zimbabwe’s ruling regime will be at risk of persecution if removed
back to their country.
In allowing the appeal of ‘RN’, an asylum seeker represented by the
Immigration Advisory Service, the Tribunal found that:
“On being identified as someone not able to demonstrate loyalty to
the ruling party she may find herself taken to one of the camps
established by the militias where there is a real risk she would be
detained and molested, physically and sexually. She may face physical
ill treatment in the course of being displaced from her home area and
similar treatment in any other area, urban or rural, in which she
seeks to re-establish herself. There is no reason to suppose that she
would fare any better than her sister who fled with her family to
South Africa to avoid the adverse attention of Zanu-PF supporters”.
Many of the 7,500 Zimbabweans already refused asylum in the U.K.
should be able to benefit from this decision, as will many hundreds
more whose cases await a decision from the UK Border Agency. IAS’
Julian Bild, RN’s solicitor, says;
“The Tribunal’s recognition that it is too dangerous for Zimbabweans
to return home will mean that many Zimbabweans in the U.K. will now
be entitled to stay here as refugees recognised by the 1951 Refugee
Convention. Many of those who have spent years in the U.K. with no
rights and left effectively destitute will now be able to work to
support themselves until it is safe for them to return home”.
17 November 2008
Saturday 6 September 2008
AA and HS Cases Update
AA AND OTHERS
The Cases of AA and 2 Others were due to be heard during the week starting 1 September, and were to be a Country Guidance Case for Zimbabwe.
However, Treasury Solicitors (for the Home Office) withdrew the case of AA and one other, before the court hearing. This meant that AA was no longer a Country Guidance Case, and could not cover other Zimbabwean cases as it had done in the past. AA and the Other Case were both given leave to remain. (AA was granted on account of his political activities within the UK.)
The remaining case was heard from 1 September to 5 September. It is not yet known whether it will be designated as a Country Guidance Case. It has a strict Anonymity Order on it, which is why there will be very little publicity about it. The Judges said that the ruling would be delivered “reasonably quickly”.
This case is still waiting on a House of Lords case which is expected to be heard sometime in October. There shouldn’t be any removals of asylum seekers until HS is fully resolved, unless of course something really dramatic happens.
CASES LINKED TO AA AND WAITING AT HIGH COURT
ZA will be following up with lawyers to identify what can be done about these cases. (It may be necessary to wait for the ruling of the case heard between 1-5 September.)
People who were found credible by Immigration Judges, and whose appeals were allowed, before the Home Office appealed against the Judge’s decision and are now in the High Court queue, should get in touch with us at the ZA office.
Zimbabwean independence day
Friday 18 April is Zimbabwean independence day – and it is also the deadline for signing the BZS petition to No 10 Downing Street against the deportation of Zimbabwean asylum seekers: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ZimbabweHSruling or via the BZS website http://www.britain-zimbabwe.org.uk
Despite the extraordinarily dangerous and uncertain situation in Zimbabwe since the 29 March elections, there has recently been a noticeable increase in attempted deportations. This is understandably causing great fear and anxiety in the refugee community. Zimbabweans continue to be held in detention centres from where they can be easily deported at any time.
One week before the deadline, there were just over 1,500 signatures to the petition. Please help to get this up to 2,000 plus by the deadline by signing the petition if you haven’t already done so, and encouraging all you know to do likewise. It only takes a minute or two.
HS Case – Update
28 March 2008
1. The Court of Appeal has refused permission to appeal (on the papers) for the HS case.
2. The Refugee Legal Centre is now exploring further legal avenues to ensure protection for Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK.
3. There has been no formal announcement from the Border and Immigration Agency about resuming enforced removals of asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.
BRITAIN’S REFUGEE SHAME – Government sends back hundreds of asylum-seekers to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe
(The Independent on Sunday, 16 March 2008)
The Zimbabwe Association has condemned letters sent out by the Border and Immigration Agency to Zimbabwean asylum seekers located in the north-west of England, and warned of widespread panic and distress in the Zimbabwean community. The letters tell asylum seekers that their claims for asylum have been refused and say the BIA is expecting shortly to be able to enforce returns to Zimbabwe, and asylum seekers should prepare to go home voluntarily.
The ZA is concerned at the casual and careless way in which such letters have been sent out to vulnerable people at a volatile and dangerous time in Zimbabwe, with parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 29 March. Recent press releases from MISA-Zimbabwe have indicated that civil society organisations fear “reprisals and retributions in the post-election period” will take place in the event of a Zanu PF election victory following a rigged election. The threats of army commander General Chiwenga and Police Commissioner Chihuri who have stated that they will not accept a change of government in the event of a Zanu PF defeat, add to the instability of the situation.
The ZA notes:
1. litigation concerning the country guidance case for Zimbabwe (HS) is ongoing; the Court of Appeal has not yet responded to the Refugee Legal Centre’s application for permission to appeal the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal’s ruling re HS. (Until the litigation is concluded the Home Office had agreed to defer the enforced removal of asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.)
2. During the last resumption of enforced removals to Zimbabwe (November 2004 to July 2005) a significant proportion of those forcibly returned – of whom anything was known – suffered persecution, mistreatment and imprisonment.
3. A recent case of enforced removal of a Zimbabwean asylum seeker from a European country to Zimbabwe has resulted in his imprisonment on return.
4. Letters have been sent to people who have ongoing individual cases for asylum and to people who fall into the risk categories identified by cases such as SM and Others, AA 2006 and HS 2007 (namely teachers, lowlevel political activists, those with military backgrounds or outstanding arrest warrants and civil society activists)
The ZA welcomes the comments of MPs Chris Huhne, Kate Hoey and Diane Abbot deploring the proposed deportations, and urges them to sign Early Day Motion 660 and the petition athttp://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ZimbabweHSruling
in support of Zimbabwean asylum seekers.
The ZA wholeheartedly supports the suggestion of Donna Covey (Refugee Council) to offer Zimbabweans a form of temporary status allowing them to work and retain their skills so they are fully equipped to help in the rebuilding of Zimbabwe when the situation stabilises.
New Asylum Model (NAM)
14 April 2007 From March 2007, the Home Office aims to process all new asylum seekers through the New Asylum Model (NAM), a major change to the asylum system. NAM’s main objective is to decide asylum cases within 6 months leading to either integration or removal. This will be done through segmentation, faster processing and case ownership.
Segmentation means asylum claimants will be divided into five groups. These groups will determine such issues as how fast an asylum claim is processed, and whether claimants have to live in detention centres or are electronically tagged.
Faster processing will be achieved by removing the Statement of Evidence form (SEF) process in adult cases, greatly reducing the time taken for an initial asylum decision. In general cases the asylum decision will be given within 20 working days. Other groups including those detained may have a decision within 3 – 4 days.
Case Ownership involves a Home Office official being responsible for the asylum seeker’s case throughout the process and ensuring the claim is dealt with promptly. Case Owner responsibilities include deciding whether status should be granted, handling any appeal, dealing with support issues, arranging reporting conditions, and dealing with removal if the claim is unsuccessful.
Only new asylum cases will come under NAM. Old cases (an estimated 450,000) will be known as Legacy Cases and dealt with by the Legacy Directorate. Legacy cases will be sent a questionnaire to update information presently held by the Home Office, who can then decide what action to take. People in receipt of Section 4 support will be the first to receive these questionnaires.
It is essential that anyone thinking of claiming asylum has all the necessary evidence to support their claim before making it. They must also take competent legal advice about the merits of their case before approaching the Home Office. Under NAM the time scale is very, very short. All the relevant information about what has happened to make the person seek asylum including such sensitive issues as torture and rape, needs to be presented right from the beginning of the claim. Holding back will only result in a refusal of asylum.
Refugee Legal Centre press release Tuesday 6th March 2007
The Refugee Legal Centre welcomes today’s Court of Appeal decision to order the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal to reconsider whether Zimbabweans who have claimed asylum in the UK are at risk of human rights abuse if returned to Zimbabwe. The Court of Appeal considered that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal had failed to properly scrutinise the evidence in the case. That evidence showed that failed asylum seekers risked being subjected to serious violence by agents of the Zimbabwean Government’s Central Intelligence Organisation stationed at Harare airport.
Thea Rogers, Deputy Chief Executive of the Refugee Legal Centre, said:
“We are delighted that the Court of Appeal considers that this test case must be looked at again by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal The Refugee Legal Centre represents the applicant in this case and maintained that there were serious concerns about the way in which the Asylum Immigration Tribunal considered the matter. The Government has put a great deal of time, money and effort into defending this test case, but in our view the evidence reveals a risk that Zimababweans who exercise their right to claim asylum in the UK are at risk of serious violence if returned to Harare Airport. The Government should not just maintain its ban on forcibly removing Zimbabweans asylum seekers from the UK to Harare Airport, but should also grant them protection in the UK until the situation in Zimbabwe improves, allowing them to work and support themselves.”
For a full listing of papers and press releases from the Refugee Legal Centre, click here.
ZA News Update 06 March 2007
The AA appeal was allowed (on ground 1) on 6 March 2007 at the Royal Courts of Justice. The judges ordered reconsideration by the same panel at the Tribunal so the case will be remitted to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, where part of it will be reheard.
Until the AA case is fully determined there will be no forcible removals of Zimbabwean asylum seekers which means there should be no detentions.
More information will follow when we have gone through the judgment carefully.
This briefing provides information about the situation of Zimbabwean asylum seekers who think they may be affected by recent legal judgements.
The Current Legal Position : The AIT ruling in August
On 2nd August 2006, in the case of AA Zimbabwe CG  UKAIT 000061, the AIT ruled that “a failed asylum seeker returned involuntarily to Zimbabwe does not face on return a real risk of being subjected to persecution or serious ill treatment on that account alone.”
The AIT did however identify three types of case where there may be a continuing risk of persecution and hence a need for protection:
1. Those whose military history discloses issues that will lead to further investigation by the security services upon return to Harare airport.
2. Those who have outstanding and unresolved criminal issues.
3. Those who have a political profile (possibly at a low level) considered adverse to the regime
The first two of these categories are new.
AA’s solicitors have made an application to the Court of Appeal against the determination.
Following this decision the Home Office announced its intention to resume forced removals of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers immediately nevertheless. This has been subject to judicial review.
Administrative Court ruling 26th September 2006 – removal of Zimbabwean cases suspended once more.
In a case anonomised as J his representatives sought to prevent his removal pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal hearing in AA. It was argued that the Home Office policy in relation to Zimbabwean cases, and in particular the fact that individual judicial reviews were having to be lodged in each case in order to obtain stays, was unreasonable and a waste of public funds. The judge indicated his view that any court would inevitably grant a stay on such a removal and asked the Home Office if they were in a position to agree to suspend such removals until the Court of Appeal gave judgment in AA.
At the end of the hearing, the Home Office confirmed in open court that removals of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers would be suspended again until AA was decided by the Court of Appeal.
Information for Zimbabweans who think they might be affected by these judgments
Get legal advice – if your solicitor is still dealing with your case, seek advice about your current position. If your solicitor is no longer dealing with your case then you should get hold of your file from your previous solicitors. You can make copies of the papers and leave them with a friend, in case the worst happens and you are detained. Any new solicitor will need all your papers. Detentions should cease pending the outcome of the AA appeal. However if you are detained you are entitled to make a phone call. You may want to agree an action plan in advance with a friend so that you can call them if you are detained and they can start taking action on your behalf. If you are detained you are entitled to apply for bail. If you have a solicitor ask them about making a bail application. You might find it difficult to find a solicitor to act for you but you can apply for bail yourself using the “Bail Notebooks for Detainees” written by Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and available free online athttp://www.biduk.org/obtaining/notebook.htm Copies of the BID notebooks on bail are available in all detention/removal centre libraries.
Background to the AIT rulinghttp://www.biduk.org/obtaining/notebook.htm On 16th November 2004, the Government announced that, despite continuing concerns about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, it was resuming enforced removals to the country. This policy was challenged in the courts on 14th July 2005 when the High Court ordered that, in the light of new evidence about the situation in Zimbabwe, the case of AA be heard again before the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT). The Government agreed to suspend all removals pending the outcome of the hearing.
The case of AA was heard before the AIT in October 2005. The AIT held that a Zimbabwean failed asylum seeker, if forced to return to Zimbabwe from the U.K, would face a “real risk of being subjected to persecutory ill treatment at the hand of the authorities simply because he would be seen to be a person who was being returned after having an unsuccessful asylum claim”
The Home Office appealed against this judgement before the High Court in April 2006 and th e Court ordered that the AIT hear the case afresh. This AIT hearing took place in the first week of July 2006 and was made public on 2nd August 2006. The AIT ruled that: “a failed asylum seeker returned involuntarily to Zimbabwe does not face on return a real risk of being subjected to persecution or serious ill treatment on that account alone”
AA’s solicitors have appealed against this determination to the Court of Appeal.
Additional information and next steps:
1. The Government announced its intention to recommence involuntary removals to Zimbabwe but this was successfully challenged in the Administrative Court on 26th September 2006 (see above).
2. AA’s solicitors have applied to the Court of Appeal. How long this will take is unknown but is likely to be a few weeks.
3. The Home Office still has an obligation to consider any fresh claims submitted based on AA. It is possible, however, that these cases may be fast tracked.
4. If AA’s present appeal is unsuccessful, it will mean that appeals that were successful on the basis of the original October 2005 decision in AA, but where the Home Office applied for a reconsideration, are likely to be reconsidered by the AIT.
5. At the hearing in October 2005, the AIT suggested that the Home Office needed to devise a mechanism to monitor those Zimbabweans it returned. To this end the Government has been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). At the latest AIT hearing, IOM stated that it conducts “extensive monitoring and evaluation of returned Zimbabweans who avail themselves of reintegration assistance”. However the AIT also concluded that “the purpose of the project is not to monitor the safety of the returnee or to assist with his passage through the airport” and “the IOM is not in a position to intervene to prevent such abuse should it occur”.
6. Assisted voluntary returns to Zimbabwe have been operating throughout this period. The Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) is run by IOM on behalf of the Home Office. It offers reintegration assistance to the value of £1,000 or £3,000 (dependent on eligibility conditions). Information on assisted voluntary return is available at: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/voluntaryreturns