A Sheffield grandfather fighting deportation to Zimbabwe has thanked supporters, as a petition calling for his release passed the 60,000 mark.
Victor Mujakachi fears for his safety should he be forced to return to his native Zimbabwe, as he has been a vocal critic of successive regimes in the country and in 2008 the government there issued a warrant for his arrest.
He was detained on Monday and is still being held, though the Home Office has since granted him a three-month stay of deportation following pressure from supporters, including his MP Gill Furniss.
In his first public message since his detention, issued today through the charity ASSIST Sheffield, which started the petition, he thanked people for their backing.
“I am deeply humbled by the response to my plight and wish to thank each and every person who has raised their voice on my behalf,” he said.
“But this is not only about me. The level of response shows that many people in the UK are deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the Home Office’s intent to deport people who are opposing the Zanu PF government to the country, where we would face arrest, torture, or worse.”
Mr Mujakachi has volunteered for various good causes in Sheffield, including running a night shelter for asylum seekers, and has won a clutch of awards for his work in the city.
The father-of-two, who has a grandson and son living in Sheffield, where he initially came to study in 2003, is not the only person facing deportation from the UK to Zimbabwe.
Sheffield ASSIST said the City of Sanctuary Sheffield said they were worried about the fate of two other Zimbabwean asylum seekers - Khuzani Ndlovu, who lives in Sheffield, and Barnsley-based Benjamin Gudza – who are currently being held at Morton Hall and threatened with deportation.
ASSIST Sheffield has also voiced concerns for Sheffield-based Chishamiso Mkundi, who it said has been called to report to Home Office on Monday.
The charity, which insists no one should face persecution for their political views, is calling on the Home Office to immediately end the detention and lift the threat of deportation hanging over all Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in the UK.
It is joining forces with the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group next Tuesday, from 9am, to protest outside the Home Office centre at Vulcan House, on Millsands, in Sheffield city centre.
The Home Office has declined to comment on individual cases but said in a statement: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection.
“Where a decision has been made that a person does not require international protection removal is only enforced when we and the courts conclude that it is safe to do so, with a safe route of return.”
To view the petition, visit www.change.org/p/home-office-free-victor-mujakachi.