Campaign launched to prevent deportation of award winning volunteer who runs Sheffield night shelter

A campaign has been launched to prevent the deportation of an award winning Sheffield volunteer who runs a night shelter in the city for asylum seekers with nowhere to go.

Tuesday, 12th February 2019, 08:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th February 2019, 08:52 am
Victor Mujakachi

Victor Mujakachi was detained at the Vulcan House immigration reporting centre in Sheffield city centre yesterday and there are now fears for his life if he is forced to return to his home country of Zimbabwe against his will.

Victor, an outspoken critic of successive Zimbabwean governments,’ has expressed concern for his safety if he is ordered to return to the South African country.

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A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Zimbabwean authorities in 2008, following critical online comments he made about the re-election of Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s then Prime Minister.

His subsequent application for asylum in the UK was turned down, as were two further bids.

He arrived in Sheffield as a post graduate student in 2003 and despite uncertainty surrounding his future in the city he has now spent 15 years carrying out community, voluntary and church work for a number of groups.

He is described a ‘well respected’ and ‘indispensable’ volunteer at ASSIST Sheffield, a charity which helps destitute asylum seekers by providing accommodation, advice and other support. 

One of his main roles has been as the team leader at the charity’s night shelter for the past eight years.

ASSIST says the shelter has provided a ‘lifeline for several hundred asylum seekers who would otherwise have had to sleep rough on the streets of our city’.

There are now fears over how the night shelter will be run while Victor is detained, with dozens of asylum seekers currently depending on it for emergency accommodation.

Victor, a father and grandfather, has received a number of awards over the years in recognition of his contribution to the city.

He is a board member of Football Unites Racism Divides and Sheffield Conversation Club, and he volunteers a number of other organisations, including Homeless and Rootless at Christmas, the Sunday Centre and City of Sanctuary.

In 2017 he was awarded the Nether Edge and Sheffield Community Star Award in 2017, in addition to the South Yorkshire High Sheriff’s Award in 2013.

An online petition was launched yesterday and around 2,5000 people have already signed it.

It calls for his release and objects to his deportation.

The petition says: “Given his continued activism around Zimbabwean politics and vocal criticism of the Mugabe and later the Mnangagwa governments and in light of the recent brutal government crackdown on protesters in Zimbabwe – described by Amnesty International as using ‘the most brutal tactics imaginable’ –  we are in shock and disbelief that any UK government would even consider deporting anybody to Zimbabwe.

“Victor isn't the only Zimbabwean that has been detained in the last few days.

“We ask for no asylum seekers to be deported to Zimbabwe.

“We ask for Victor Mujakachi and other detained Zimbabweans to be released from detention immediately.”

Richard Chessum, chairman of ASSIST Sheffield, said: “Victor is one of the most valuable volunteers we have ever had and one of the most popular.

“We have known him and his sons who are here for such a long time. It would be so tragic if someone who has contributed so much not only to ASSIST but to our society more generally were to be sent back to a very uncertain and dangerous situation that he would find in Zimbabwe, given his very public opposition to the regime.”

Supporter Maggie Parr added: “Victor is an amazing person - an extremely dedicated Assist volunteer who is invaluable to the running of the night shelter and also a lovely man for whom nothing is too much trouble.

“He has worked tirelessly to help others and cannot be deported. He has earned the right to stay in this country many times over.”