Lawyers and rights campaigners say the UK government has been working with Zimbabwean authorities to deport asylum seekers who might be wanted back home for activism.
Asylum lawyers and charities told The Guardian on Tuesday that the Home Office (interior ministry) has accelerated deportation of Zimbabwean nationals since Emmerson Mnangagwa rose to power in the African country in November 2017.
They said the ministry had sought to accelerate removals process for refused asylum seekers, many of whom have been in the UK for over a decade.
Zimbabweans waiting for their asylum application to be processed in the UK have reportedly been invited for interviews in the Home Office over the past months only to encounter Zimbabwean government officials waiting to interview them.
A female asylum seeker said a Zimbabwean official who spoke her native language, Shona, had told her in the ministry that her name was on a list of thousands of Zimbabwean nationals that the UK government wanted to remove from the country.
Reports on Monday showed that police had detained two Zimbabwean asylum seekers before transferring them to a Home Office detention center. They said authorities were preparing to deport the two individuals to Zimbabwe within days despite statements proving that they could face prosecution back home because of their anti-government activity.
One of the asylum seekers, identified as Victor Mujakachi, who has been in the UK since 2003 to complete his post-graduate education, is wanted back in Zimbabwe for making critical comments online about the government. UK authorities have turned down Mujakachi’s asylum application three times.
UK authorities have repeatedly been accused of ignoring the rights if asylum seekers amid reports that government is desperately seeking to reduce the number of migrants in the country.