Failing asylum seekers

Thousands of Zimbabweans are to face forced removal back to Zimbabwe after the elections. So far 500 failed asylum seekers have received letters asking them to leave voluntarily or face deportation but the eventual numbers could be as many as 7000. In 2005 the courts ruled in favour of Zimbabwean asylum seekers on the basis that simply by claiming asylum in the UK their lives could be in danger if deported. The decision to begin forced removals of failed asylum seekers contradicts the British governments stance towards Zimbabwe including supporting a ban of the Zimbabwean cricket team and the PM refusing to talk to Mugabe. In one breath the British governments accuses Mugabe of being evil personified and in another states there is no danger to returned asylum seekers.

Support for the asylum seekers is growing amongst MPs and local government as well as refugee organisations especially with today’s release of a report damming Britain’s asylum policy as “inhumane and oppressive”

The commission found that Britain’s treatment of asylum-seekers “falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society”. Its interim report will be delivered to the Home Office today by a delegation of asylum-seekers.

The report details how the “adversarial” system is failing applicants from the very first point of interview, with officials accused of stacking the odds against genuine claimants. “A ‘culture of disbelief’ persists among decision-makers,” it said. “Along with lack of access to legal advice for applicants this is leading to perverse and unjust decisions.”

The culture of disbelief is very real as in the case of the Ghanaian woman who despite suffering from cancer and knowing fully well that she would not receive treatment in Ghana was still deported straight from her hospital bed in Cardiff and has since died. Another recent case is the Cameroonian woman who was immediately sent to Yarls Wood and her claim for asylum based on torture was ignored. A number of gays and lesbians seeking asylum on the basis of their sexuality and political activism are having to “prove” their sexuality – how do you do that? Right now there are thousands of people with no papers, unable to work or access health care or any support whatsoever. The Refugee Council is itself arrogant and selective in the way it responds to asylum seekers. A friend of mine recently went to the Refugee Welfare center and was insulted and made to wait the whole day before being able to make a claim for emergency money. The person had no money, no home, no job nothing and the REC were unable to do anything. The culture of disbelief is not just within the government but also at least with some of the staff at the Refugee Council’s welfare center. It is racialised where people of colour are looked on as suspect particularly when trying to access medical care whether at a hospital emergency room or doctors clinic.