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Zimbabwe (Immigration Removals)

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): The Government have previously made statements on the return of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe on 27 June, 6 and 18 July and 14 December 2005. I would like to provide a further update.

On 12 April the Court of Appeal allowed our appeal against two determinations of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT). The court found that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal had erred in its approach to the evidence before it in finding that the particular way we were enforcing returns of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers to Harare airport put them
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at risk of mistreatment. The AIT's determination in that case has therefore been set aside and the AIT will consider the case afresh.

We also welcome the Court of Appeal's further finding that a person who can safely return to their country of origin voluntarily is not a refugee. The Government remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and we are fully committed to providing protection to those who need it. For those who do, the asylum decision making and independent appeals system ensure that they get an appropriate form of protection, and the question of their removal does not arise. But it cannot be right that people who would face no risk if they returned to their country of origin voluntarily should, because they refuse to do so, be entitled to the same status as people who have a genuine fear of persecution.

In line with our original undertaking to the High Court, we will not be enforcing returns to Zimbabwe pending the further hearing the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal is now required to hold. However, we continue to expect those who have exhausted their rights of appeal and been found not to need international protection to leave the UK voluntarily. We can if required assist them in doing so through the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Since the tribunal hearing of October 2005, we have been reviewing our methods of return, and have continued to build upon our already strong networks and relationships with NGOs, international organisations and civil society on the ground in Zimbabwe to strengthen our capacity to monitor the treatment of both enforced and voluntary returnees.

Identity and Passport Service

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): The Identity and Passport Service will publish its Corporate and Business Plans for 2006–16 and Framework Agreement on Friday 21 April. Copies of the documents will be placed in the Library of the House.