Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Immigration Advisory Service

1.  IAS

  IAS is the largest national charity giving a free legal advice and representation service to immigrants and asylum seekers. It has 16 offices throughout the UK and one in Sylhet, Bangladesh and over 300 staff. It handles more than 7,000 appeals every year in addition to giving advice by e-mail, telephone and in interview on more than 36,000 occasions. IAS is publicly funded and has contracts from the Legal Services Commission in all its relevant offices. Together with its predecessor (UKIAS) it has more than 30 years' experience of this work. In terms of new appeals instructions about one third to one half are asylum and of the non-asylum two thirds are family settlement cases.


  2.1  IAS remains disturbed by the delayed reaction of the Home Office, when suspending asylum removals to Zimbabwe, to information presented by UNHCR and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding the situation in Zimbabwe. While we are pleased by the current Home Office policy, which appears to recognise the dangers faced by MDC activists in Zimbabwe, we are concerned that the position of lower level MDC supporters and other persons opposed to the current Zimbabwean government is being overlooked. IAS is concerned that the current Home Office policy relating to Zimbabwean asylum seekers appears to be moving toward the assumption that only MDC activists are in fear of persecution. However, we shall demonstrate below that high profile MDC activists are not the only group in Zimbabwe being persecuted by the current regime.

  2.2  IAS is also concerned that the Home Office is increasingly raising the issue of internal flight.[1] To the knowledge of IAS, flight from the Mugabe regime within Zimbabwe is not a possibility. The state has effective control of the whole country and, furthermore, there has been ample evidence to prove that in many cases the state forces (including the police, the civil service, and the CIO) are complicit with the actions of the War Veterans and the Zanu-PF.[2] It should also not be forgotten that the so-called National Youth Service has been responsible for many incidences of violence.


  3.1  Amnesty International has warned that not only real but also perceived supporters of the MDC are at grave risk of human rights violations.[3] The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum confirms that post election violence has focused both on known and suspected supporters of the MDC.[4] Amnesty International also mention that MDC rank and file have been abducted and held in illegal Zanu-PF militia detention camps, where they are at risk of torture, including sexual assault and rape.[5] However, refusal letters of 2002 often claim that "although there is evidence that well-known MDC activists may be at risk of violence", other low level members "may at some time experience forms of intimidation of harassment, [but] this will not necessarily constitute a threat to life or freedom".[6]

  3.2  IAS rejects the Home Office assertion that persecution is limited to high profile MDC activists. We assert that low level MDC supporters have also been the objects of vicious attacks and killings. The post-election period has witnessed many cases of violent attacks on lower level MDC supporters by state agents and supporters of the ruling party, Zanu-PF.[7] There have also been reports of MDC supporters being assaulted and then forcibly displaced from rural areas where Zanu-PF militia have pledged to ensure that the local population is equal to the number of Zanu-PF votes cast.[8] There is also evidence that Zanu-PF officials in charge of distributing food supplies in many rural areas have discriminated against those believed to be MDC supporters, [9] as well as cases of children being driven away from school food queues because of their parents' support for the MDC.[10]


  4.1  As noted above, Amnesty International and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum have pointed out that people perceived or suspected of supporting the MDC are at grave risk of human rights violations.[11] The Amani Trust, a Zimbabwe NGO, have reported that militia members and army soldiers have raped women and teenage girls, or forced them to perform humiliating sexual acts in public, in revenge for the "crime" of living in a community perceived to support the MDC,[12] clearly evidence that actual MDC membership is not a prerequisite for persecution.

  4.2  Those who oppose the Mugabe regime but are not necessarily supporters of the MDC are also subject to persecution. Teachers have been particularly singled out for attention by Zanu-PF and War Veterans due to their influential position. Prior to the election a schoolteacher was beaten to death in Mouth Darwin[13] and one teacher was recently forced to flee from home after being harassed by CIO agents.[14] IAS has also dealt with many individual cases of teachers claiming asylum, many who fear persecution due to the perception on the part of the government that teachers are MDC members. Students have also faced persecution. Whilst not necessarily supporting the MDC, students have voiced their opposition to Mugabe, labelling the army as a terrorist organisation with the president at its head.[15] In late 2001 students revolted following the death of a student thrown from a moving train by soldiers.[16] Recently a number of students were arrested and badly beaten for supporting strikes called for by the ZCTU.[17]

  4.3  Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum have reported that Didymus Mutasa, a Zanu-PF member of Parliament, has compiled a list which is being used to target for harassment civil servants and business persons considered to be sympathetic to the MDC. It is clear that not all persons included on this list are involved in party politics.[18] IAS would like to give an example of one case where a printer of no particular political persuasion was targeted, when his company undertook a business transaction with the MDC.[19] Journalists have also suffered since the election. New media laws are being used to crack down on any dissent in the press and many journalists have been arrested for writing stories deemed critical of the Mugabe regime.[20]

Immigration Advisory Service

May 2002

1   In recent months refusal letters have included the following: "The Secretary of State considers that if your fear of persecution had been genuine you would have moved to another area of Zimbabwe", even when the applicant has moved on several occasions, both rural and urban locations. Back

2   Amnesty International argue that the government condones the violence because it serves its own political aims. See Amnesty International, Assault and sexual violence by militia, 5 April 2002. Back

3   Amnesty International, Zimbabwe in Crisis, 8 May 2002. Back

4   Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, Political Violence Report: 16-30 April 2002, 10 May 2002. Back

5   ibid Amnesty International, Zimbabwe in Crisis, 8 May 2002. Back

6   Our ref OAK/353/02/RDG. Back

7   See the various Political Violence Reports produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum since the election. Back

8   The Daily News, Murambinda Villagers Flee Homes, 9 April 2002. Zimbabwe Standard, Torture of MDC supporters continues unabated, 14 April 2002. Back

9   Amnesty International, Militias using food and sexual violence as tool of repression, 5 April 2002. Back

10   IRIN, Children driven from school food queues, 8 April 2002. Back

11   Amnesty International, Zimbabwe in Crisis, 8 May 2002. Back

12   Amnesty International, Assault and sexual violence by militia, 5 April 2002. Back

13   The Guardian, Zimbabwe MPs tortured in new wave of terror, 8 February 2002. Back

14   Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, Political Violence Report; Update to 15 April 2002, 17 April 2002. Back

15   The Guardian, Students denounce Zimbabwe army as terrorists, 28 November 2001; Independent, Zimbabwe students fight with riot police, 28 November 2001; CNN, Students riot in Zimbabwe, 27 November 2001. Back

16   The Guardian, Students denounce Zimbabwe army as terrorists, 28 November 2001; Independent, Zimbabwe students fight with riot police, 28 November 2001; CNN, Students riot in Zimbabwe, 27 November 2001. Back

17   Zimbabwe Indymedia, Bulawayo five released, 25 March 2002, Also see The Daily News, Police Arrest Student Leaders, 9 April 2002. Back

18   Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, Political Violence Report: Update to 15 April 2002, 17 April 2002. Back

19   Our ref TN3/195555 16 January 2002. Back

20   See BBC News, No surrender for Zimbabwe's reporters, 6 May 2002. Back

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