UK/Zimbabwe: UK talks tough on Mugabe but treats Zimbabweans stranded in UK inhumanely

While Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks tough on Mugabe at the G8 summit, Zimbabweans who have sought safety in Britain are being treated inhumanely, said Amnesty International today.

The call comes ahead of a rally outside Parliament tomorrow (11 July) where Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, MPs from all parties and refugee organisations will call on the government to give Zimbabwean asylum seekers leave to remain in the UK and permission to work.

Amnesty recognises the need for a robust international reaction to the serious human rights abuses that continue in Zimbabwe. But it implores the UK to consider the plight of Zimbabweans who have been refused asylum in Britain but cannot return home. They are left destitute and in limbo, denied the right to work to support themselves and denied financial support from the government.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“Gordon Brown himself has said ‘Britain will not shirk our responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe’ but that includes those who have come here seeking our protection.

“Zimbabweans and others who have been refused asylum are being treated inhumanely. Many are reduced to poverty - forced to scavenge for food, to sleep in parks and public toilets, to go without vital medicines even after suffering torture. Others rely on the charity of friends, churches or drop-in shelters to survive.

“The government must stop using destitution as a policy against refused asylum seekers. If people can’t return home, they should be allowed to work or get enough financial support to live on, until they can return home or are granted leave to remain here.”

Yesterday in Parliament Harriet Harman ducked a question from Fiona McTaggart on the issue of destitution among Zimbabwean refused asylum seekers. Asked whether it would be possible to give them the right to work in order to earn an income, Harman merely alluded to ‘meetings’ that the Home Secretary would be having before moving onto the different issue of forcible removals.

The call comes as Amnesty reported the abduction of 11 young people from an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp outside Harare on 7 July, following an attack by armed men believed to be linked to the ruling ZANU-PF party. Amnesty International is concerned that the abducted youths are at serious risk of being tortured or killed.

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