UK MPs call on home secretary to stop deportation flight due to ‘systemic oppression’ by Zimbabwean government

Independent (UK) — Priti Patel must halt the imminent deportation of up to 50 Zimbabwean nationals due to the “deteriorating” political and human rights situation in the country, 75 cross-party politicians have said.

A letter to the home secretary, signed by MPs and peers from all major parties, warns that a charter flight to Harare, due to fly on Wednesday, must be “urgently halted” and a moratorium on all removals to Zimbabwe imposed until its government “ends their gross human rights violations”.

There are also fears over the public health implications of the flight amid reports of a Covid case in Brook House immigration removal centre, where many of those due to be deported are being held.

Concern has been mounting about the mass deportation after it emerged last week that Zimbabwean nationals were being rounded up for removal, among them many people who have been in the country for decades and those who have British children.

It followed a meeting that took place between Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs ministry and the British embassy on 23 June, during which it was agreed that a flight would be chartered from London to Harare for the purposes of “returning Zimbabwean nationals with no right to remain in the UK”.

The letter to Ms Patel, coordinated by Lord Jonathan Oates, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Zimbabwe, states that it is “clear” from the engagement the group has had with Zimbabweans, including senior opposition politicians and activists, that the political and human rights situation has “continued to deteriorate in the country”.

“The Zimbabwean government is systemically oppressing its political opponents, denying freedom of speech and committing gross human rights violations. These violations include subjecting political opponents, including MPs, to illegal detention, sexual assault, torture and murder,” it states.

The letter demands to see “any assessment the Home Office has carried out into the political and human rights situation in Zimbabwe, as well as who the Home Office took evidence from in conducting such an assessment”.

Bryan Micheriwa, one of the Zimbabwean men in Brook House, told The Independent that an individual on his wing had tested positive but had not been moved to an isolation unit, and that the other detainees had not been provided with PPE.