Tougher UK Deportation Laws; Illegal Migrants and Offenders in Trepidation

Many Zimbabweans who have lived as undocumented individuals now live-in trepidation as immigration rules tighten and the enforcement of deportations to Zimbabwe is now open.

The issue of migrants convicted or suspected of serious criminality is one that has been high on the media and political agenda in the United Kingdom in the past two decades.

Many Zimbabweans in particular, have managed to remain in the U.K. because of loopholes in the system that allowed them to make last minute appeals to stay. But things are changing the Home Secretary Priti Patel is overhauling the system.

Priti Patel’s latest plans to overhaul the UK Immigration Rules include tightening the laws concerning illegal migrants and offenders in an attempt to “protect British borders” and curb abuses of the asylum system by those who do not have a right to be in the UK.

Under the current Immigration Rules, the Home Office can enforce a migrant’s removal in circumstances where they do not hold any valid leave to remain in the UK.

For many Zimbabweans, the absence of a bilateral agreement between the British and Zimbabwean government to remove failed asylum seekers meant that they could not be deported.

Deportation orders could not be carried out. However, with a new agreement between Zimbabwe and England deportation orders will be fully enforced.

Deportation orders are generally used to enforce the removal of persons (offenders) whose behaviour is not deemed conducive to the public good and allows the detention of such persons until such time they are removed.

For those that thought this was just empty political rhetoric, it is not.

The Zimbabwean community in the England just witnessed the first of many scheduled mass deportation-chartered flights by the Home office.

Zimbabwean nationals who have been released from detention after having completed serving jail terms for various offences are getting deported.

Amongst the first batch of those classed as undesirables was Shephard Masvanhise who was convicted for gruesomely murdering his wife in Leicester.

Responding to these deportations Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry’s acting spokesperson Mr Livit Mugejo said there was nothing illegal about what the British are doing “these individuals are classified as Foreign National Offenders.

“Any country in the world has a right to deport any foreigner from its country. The advent of Covid-19 had slowed down involuntary repatriations,” he said.

Mr Mugejo said removals have always been taking place.

“There is nothing unique in the deportations, as South Africa last week deported 220 Zimbabwean citizens, including some who were released from jails,” he added.

Deportation orders also prohibit offenders from re-entering the UK whilst the order is in force and invalidates any leave granted before or during the validity of the order.

Previously, failed asylum applicants (who had exhausted all their appeal rights) stayed, this was due to the fact that there was a blanket rule that stopped any deportations to Zimbabwe. The new rules effectively remove this therefore many failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers are subject to removal.

The new rules streamline the opportunity to submit fresh evidence to the Home Office as a “further submission”. This effectively denies asylum applicants a chance to put forward new arguments as to why they should be allowed to stay in the UK whilst leaving them open to immediate removal.

It had become commonplace for most failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers who were nearing completion of a custodial sentence to lodge late or spurious claims for asylum (often relying on apparent medical conditions or being a victim of the Mugabe regime) in efforts to delay or frustrate their deportation from the UK.

Immigration experts have also pointed out that the Home Office may increase and step up the removal of those with criminal convictions and perhaps move on to remove those who have failed on multiple occasions to get valid asylum claims.

Many Zimbabweans who have lived as undocumented individuals now live-in trepidation as immigration rules tighten and the enforcement of deportations to Zimbabwe is now open.

It is understood that the Home Secretary’s ambitious plans are to target the “prompt removal” of failed asylum applicants by preventing the pursuit of last-minute appeals and “further submissions” as asylum applicants would be forced to present all their arguments and evidence at the outset of their claim.

Regarding foreign offenders, Priti Patel envisages enforcing the “prompt removal” of criminals sentenced to imprisonment of 12 months or more, although she admits this would be a big challenge. Other changes to the immigration law include automatic prison sentences for deported offenders who return to the UK.

Notwithstanding the UK now can (courtesy of Brexit) secure the removal of offenders or failed asylum seekers to states where they could be at risk of torture, inhumane treatment or other violence, the new rules are now deliverable due to the absence of legal and logistical obstacles that presented while they were still part of the European Union.

Gone are the days when Zimbabweans would simply say ‘you cannot deport me the regime will kill me.’


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