Sheffield MPs join calls to halt 'inhumane' deportation of Zimbabwean asylum seekers

Sheffield’s Labour MPs have joined a national cross-party effort to stop the deportation of up to 50 Zimbabwean asylum seekers reportedly set for this week.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 9:24 am
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel has been urged to halt the planned deportation of up to 50 Zimbabwean asylum seekers this Wednesday. (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Critics from all major political parties yesterday (July 19) wrote to Priti Patel warning that a charter flight to Harare due to fly on Wednesday must be “urgently halted” and any and all removals to Zimbabwe must be stopped until its government “ends its gross human rights violations”.

A joint letter by Sheffield MPs Paul Blomfield, Clive Betts, Olivia Blake, Gill Furniss and Louise Haigh called on the Home Secretary to “personally review each case” and halt the removal until ”all individuals considered for deportation are given access to sufficient legal advice”.

The letter reads: “Political persecution remains an extremely dangerous possibility in Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa’s presidency, and it is vital that the UK does its duty to protect those at risk from violence or oppression.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"It is concerning that the flight has been reported to be part of a political deal between the UK and the Zimbabwean Government, hastening the pace at which these deportations occur and hence potentially undermining access to legal support for the detainees.”

The MPs also write that “advocacy groups advise us that some of those on the flight are democracy activists who fled political persecution and will face it again if they are returned”.

Paul Blomfield MP said: “It is the duty of the home secretary to ensure that all those seeking asylum in the UK have proper access to legal advice, and that due process is followed – people cannot be seized in the night without any regard for the proper rules that govern asylum claims and immigration removals. This flight must be stopped until it is certain that all individuals have had legal advice, as is their right.”

The national letter, coordinated by co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Lord Jonathan Oares, reads: “The Zimbabwean government is systemically oppressing its political opponents, denying freedom of speech and committing gross human rights violations. These violations include subjecting political opponents, including MPs, to illegal detention, sexual assault, torture and murder.”